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Late of the Lord Chamberlain's Department, Court of Siam 

With Frontispiece, 45 Plates and 5 Figures 






To my Aunt, 

I dedicate this book 

in appreciation 

of her sympathetic interest 

in my work. 


nPO students of Indian Culture interested in tracing the influence of 
India in the institutions of her Cultural Colonies, as also to 
Anthropologists, the Religious Festivals and Court Ceremonies, which 
still remain the most characteristic features of Siamese social life, 
offer an important field for research. Yet the subject has been little 
touched by scholars, and I realize, therefore, that a pioneer work of 
this nature can only be regarded as an attempt to lay a foundation 
for further studies, and I hope that other students particularly those 
Siamese possessed of an extensive knowledge of their own literature 
and customs may be encouraged to endeavour to fill those gaps whicli 
remain in our knowledge of most of the Siamese State Ceremonies. 

There are two points which I think call for notice here in order to 
remove possible misconceptions. In the first place, it may be as well 
to mention that; despite the fact that most of the Koyal Ceremonies 
discussed in this work are Hindu in origin, and retain much 
Brahmanical ritual, it should, however, be clearly understood that 
Buddhism is now, and has been for many centuries, the real religion 
of both the Siamese people and their sovereigns. 

The second point concerns the question of transliteration. In the 
first chapter I quote M. George Coedes' reasons for preferring a scientific 
system adapted from that used for the transliteration of Sanskrit, 
and employed by him in transliterating the Siamese stone inscriptions, 
and I there also express my opinion that this system is equally suitable 
for use in the present work. 1 am, however, well aware that my 
adoption of this system is open to criticism from certain points of 
view, and hence 1 take the opportunity of referring to the matter here 
in some detail. In coming to my decision on the question, I was mainly 
influenced by the fact that the " Court words " used in connection 
with many of the Ceremonies are very frequently Indian in origin, 
and any phonetic system would have rendered them entirely 
unintelligible to students desirous of tracing the extent of Indian 
cultural influence in Siam. At the same time, the use of this system, 
which is purely mechanical, and does not attempt to restore a word 
to its original Sanskrit or Pali, avoids the many pitfalls into which in 
the past certain writers have fallen, owing to their imperfect knowledge 
of the 'classical languages of India. The present system, whilst in 
most cases rendering the Indian origin of a word sufficiently 


recognizable, allows it to be easily reconstructed in Siamese characters 
if required. " Again, the purely Siamese words, though admittedly 
often unrecognizable in their transliterated form, are equally easily 
reconstructed in Siamese characters. It has been suggested to me 
that two systems, a phonetic and a scientific, might with advantage 
be used for the Siamese and Indian words respectively, but, quite 
apart from the inconvenience of using two systems, there would be 
the sometimes insuperable difficulty of deciding whether a given word 
is in fapt of Indian or purely Siamese origin. If I make a few exceptions 
to my rule of adhering to one system of transliteration throughout the 
book, it is only in the case of a few well-known proper names, in 
deference to established usage. 

Much of the material incorporated in this volume was obtained 
by me while in Siam, and I am especially indebted to H.R.H. Prince 
Bamrong Rajanubhab, with whom I was privileged to have many 
illuminating conversations. My thanks are also due to H.H. Prince 
Dhani Nivat, and Brahya Prijanusasana, for valuable information and 
introductions ; to my friend Professor Rene Nicolas of Culalankarana 
University, whose kindly criticism of parts of my manuscript at an 
early stage was very helpful ; and to Mr. P. S. Sastri, the Indian 
Sanskrit scholar attached to the Royal Institute at Bangkok, who 
assisted me in the translation of certain Siamese texts. 

The present work was accepted by the University of London for 
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and I particularly wish to express 
my gratitude to Dr. C. 0. Blagden, Dean of the School of Oriental 
Studies, for guiding me in my studies while in England ; also to 
Dr. L. D. Barnett, whom I often consulted with reference to Indian 
literature ; and to Dr. B. Malinowski for introducing me to the 
functional method of social anthropology. 

H. G. Q. W. 


October, 1031. 























XIV. ROYAL AUDIENCES, and the Reception of Embassies 177 

XVI. THE ROYAL BOUNTY (Tulabhdra and Kathina) . 199 
XVII. ROYAL ANNIVERSARIES (Coronation and Birthday) . 213 




Kite-flying, Baruna-Satra, and the Speeding of the 
Outflow 221 


Sdrada ........ 228 

XX. THE SWINGING FESTIVAL, and the Reception of the 

Gods 238 


XXII. TEMPORARY KINGS . ' . . . , 265 



XXIV. FEASTS OF LAMPS : Con Pariah, Kahtikeya Festival, 

and L6y Brah Prahdip 288 

of the Sacred Bull, Visnu's Sleep, Diva's Night, 
Snana, Top-spinning, New Year . . .295 

Spirits of Cities, Guardian Spirits in Great Guns, 
and Foundation Sacrifices 300 

XXVII. THE EXPULSION OF EVIL : The General Expulsion 
of Evil at New Year, the Public Scapegoat, the 
Expulsion of Disease, a Ceremony of Palace 
Exorcism, and a Royal Exorcism . . .308 



INDEX 319 


A. Aymonier, Le Cambodge, 3 vols., Paris, 1900-4. 

BEFEO. Bulletin de Vficole Franchise $ Extreme-Orient. 

BRB. Ro'ah Brah Raja Bidhl Sipson Do 9 an (Ceremonies of 

the Twelve Months), by H.M. King Culalankafana, 


C. . Chatterji, Indian Cultural Influence in Cambodia, Calcutta, 


D, Dubois and Beauchamp, Hindu Manners, Customs and 

Ceremonies, 3rd edition, 1905. 

ERE. Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 

GB. The Golden Bough, by Sir J. G. Frazer, 3rd edition, London, 

1915. The eleven vols. are referred to by the following 
numbers : I, The Magic Art, pt. 1 ; II, do, pt. 2 ; 
III, Taboo and the Perils of the Soul ; IV, The Dying God ; 
' V, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, pt. 1 ; VI, do. pt. 2 ; VII, Spirits 
of the Corn and Wild, pt. 1 ; VIII, do, pt. 2 ; IX, The 
Scapegoat ; X, Balder the Beautiful, pt. 1 ; XI, do., pt. 2. 

Ge. (1) G. E. Gerini, Chulakantamangala, Bangkok, 1895. 

Ge. (2) G. E. Gerini, article on " Festivals and Fasts (Siamese)/* 

in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 
Gr, Groslier, Rechcrches sur les Cambodgiens, Paris, 1921. 

HV. Gam Hoi Kara Khun Hlvan Ha Vat (Evidence of Khun 

Hlvau Ha Vat). 

JSS. Journal of the Siam Society. 

KM. Kata Mandirapdla (Book of Palace Law). 

L. Leclere, Fetes Civiles et Religieuses du Cambodge. 

L. L. La Loubere, Siam, English edition, London, 1693. 

M. Mahdvamsa, edn. of Geiger and Bode, London, 1912. 

NN.- Ro'an Nan Nabamdsa (Story of Lady Nabamasa). 

P. Pallegoix, Royaume Thai ou Siam, 2 vols., Paris, 1854. 

SBE. Sacred Books of the East. 

The Jatakas (Buddhist Birth Stories) are usually referred to by 
numbers, the quotations being from Cowell's edition. 



His Majesty Prajadhipok, King of Siam, seated 
State and accompanied by his Regalia 

























To face page 

The Altar in the Siva Temple .... 54 

A Mantra entitled " The Worship of the Eight 

Directions" ...... 55 

Yantra Diagrams ...... 56 

Yantra Diagrams ...... 57 

Brahman performing Homa .... 72 

Pai-Srl Trays with Offerings to the Deities , 73 
The King in the Ablution Pavilion receiving 

Anointment Water from the Prince Patriarch 75 

The Ceremony on the Octagonal Throne . . 78 
The King seated on the Brahdrapitha Throne 

after having received the Regalia ... 84 

Some of the Regalia ..... 92 
The Inscription of the Golden Tablet of Style and 

Title, and of the Royal Horoscope . . 102 

The Royal Weapons ..... 106 

The Royal Progress by Land .... 110 

The Royal Barge " Subarnahansa " . . Ill 

The Anointment of the Queen . . . . 118 

The Assumption of the Royal Residence . . 119 
Mount Kailasa and the Procession of the 

Tonsurate . . . . m .128 

Reception of the Tonsurate by Siva (King 

Rama V) on Mount Kailasa . . . 130 
The Tonsurate seated in Full State after the 

Ceremony ....... 131 

The Corpse of King Sisowath of Cambodia dressed 

for placing in the Urn ..... 139 

The Lying-in-State in the Tusita Maha Prasada 142 

Monks Chanting during the Lying-in-State . 143 

The Funeral Pyre (Brah Meru) of King Rama VI 145 
The Urn being transferred to the Great 

Funeral Car ...... 148 

A Royal Funeral Procession . . . . 149 




To face page 


'Bearers of the Royal Gifts to the Monks circum- 

ambulating the Meru . . . ... 



The Ashes of the late Queen Mother borne in 

Procession . 



Statues of the Kings of the Cakrl Dynasty in the 

Pantheon ....... 



Royal Relics placed ,in State on an Altar in the 

Amarindra Hall ..... 



The King arriving at a Vdt on the Occasion of a 

Land Kathina ...... 



Royal Barge taking part in a Kathina Procession 



"Mixing the Heavenly Rice" in the Sdrada 

Ceremony . . 1 . . . 



" Mixing the Heavenly Rice " : a Nearer View . 



The Swinging in Progress .... 



The Procession of " Siva " at the Swinging 




" Siva " with his Insignia Bearers watching the 




The Circular Dance of the " Ndgas " 



" Siva " paying Homage to the King 



Ceremony in the Siva Temple .... 



Procession of the " Temporary King " at the 

Ploughing Festival ..... 



The First Ploughing 



A Siamese Representation of the Miracle of the 

Jambu-tree ...... 



The White Elephant of the Present Reign 



The White Elephant of the Sixth Reign 



The King anointing the White Elephant of the 

Present Reign ...... 




The " Rhinoceros ", Bearer of the Sacred Fire 



Arrival of the French Embassy at Ayudhya 



The Audience Hall at Ayudhya 



(1), Gold Vessel for the King's Letter ; (2) Plan 

of Audience Hall 


5. The Brafy Mahd Raja Gru performing Rites in the 

Siva Temple on the First Day of the Waning 
of the Second Month, at the Point immediately 
before the Small Images are bathed and placed 
on the Bhadrapitha Throne .... 





This inquiry is limited to a study of the State Ceremonies of Siam, 
and these are primarily Brahmanical with later Buddhist modifica- 
tions. The reason for this is twofold : In the first place, the State 
Religion of those countries from which the Siamese derived, their 
civilization in early days was in the main Hinduism, and kingship, 
wherever it is found, tends to preserve the usages of former times. 
Secondly, Hinduism is a religion that lends itself especially to the 
support of that pomp and circumstance inseparable from Absolute 
Monarchy, the only form of government the Siamese have ever known. 
On the other hand, Buddhism is essentially a religion of the people/ 
tolerating kings merely as protectors. Thus, while Siamese kings have 
always protected Buddhism, and have usually looked to it themselves 
for spiritual consolation, they have surrounded themselves with the 
paraphernalia of Hinduism and retained much of its ritual in their 
Court Ceremonies, the better to support the power of the monarchy. 
We shall, therefore, make a rather close study of Siamese Brahmanism, 
but shall only consider Buddhism in so far as it is necessary to enable 
us to understand the Buddhist additions made by pious kings in later 
times to many of the State Ceremonies. Only one purely Buddhist 
festival will be included the Kathina specially selected as illustrating 
that aspect of the kingship in which the monarch fills the r61e of 
protector of the people's faith. To attempt to deal with the popular 
Buddhist festivals and ceremonies of Siam would be to open up a vast 
field of research into Siamese Buddhism, far beyond the scope of this 
work. Nevertheless, though the inquiry revolves mainly around the 
king and his court, it is more than a study of the kingship ; it 
probes deeply into the whole body of society. 

The mode of treatment here employed is an attempt to combine 
two methods of investigation, namely, the historical, or archceokgical ; 
and the functional method of social anthropology. The first method is 
the one which first appealed to me and on the lines of which my former 
studies of Indian culture had been conducted. In the words of 
Sir James Frazer : 

" To sift out the elements of culture which a race has independently 
evolved and to distinguish them accurately from those which it has 
derived from other races is a task of extreme difficulty and delicacy, 
which promises to occupy students of man for a long time to come." l 

1 OB. x, p. vii. 


These words immediately call to mind those two theories of modern 
anthropology, the diffusionist and that of independent origins. Sir 
James evidently sees scope for the application of both theories, and 1 
agree with this point of view, with the reservation that the final 
pronouncement on the question must inevitably await the accumulation 
of a vastly greater amount of data from all parts of the world than we 
are in possession of to-day. It is in this connection that I hope that 
some of the facts that I have brought to light in this book may serve 
a wider purpose in the hands of comparative ethnographers who may 
perceive theoretical values of wide application that have escaped me. 

In dealing with a people like the Siamese, whose culture is mainly 
borrowed from India, the diffusionist theory certainly forces itself 
to the fore ; and within the limited field of the Indian Cultural Colonies 
there can be no gainsaying the fact that diffusion has played a very 
prominent part. Indeed Hocart, in his book on Kingship, 1 has 
brought forward interesting evidence in support of there having been 
much cultural diffusion amongst all those maritime peoples extending 
from the Mediterranean to Fiji. But this appears to me to be still 
a long way from establishing the world-wide application of the 
diffusionist theory from some such source of origin as Egypt. 

It will perhaps be as well to define at once in what sense I use the 
word " origin ". As Dr. Malinowski has pointed out with regard 
to magic : 

" Magic never ' originated ', it never has been made or invented. 
AH magic simply ' was ' from the beginning an essential adjunct of 
all such things and processes as vitally interest man and yet elude 
his normal rational efforts. The spell, the rite, and the thing which 
they govern are coeval." 2 

Again, as Hocart remarks : 3 

" There are no first beginnings ; there are only beliefs, older 
beliefs, and yet older beliefs." 

I hope, therefore, that it will be understood that I do not use 
the word " origin " dogmatically, but merely as a term of convenience 
expressive of that stage, more or less remote, to which we are, in the 
present state of knowledge, able to trace any given institution. 

Turning now to the second method of investigation the functional 
method of social anthropology. It was only after reading some of the 
illuminating writings of Dr. Malinowski that I appreciated the value 
of this line of approach, and in attempting to apply it to the study 

1 London, 1927. 

* " Magic, Science and Religion," in Science, Religion and Reality, 1925, p. 69. 

* Op. eft., p. v. 


of Siamese State Ceremonies I believe that I am adding much to the 
value of the work. The object of this method is to show, ty functional 
analysis, the -value of any given custom or rite for social integrity and 
for the continuity of culture. It is eminently practical and is concerned 
less with the reason that a native priest gives for the performance of 
a rite, than with the actual sociological value of the rite as evinced in 
the effect which it has on the life and status of the community. So far, 
the functional method has been applied almost entirely to primitive 
peoples, but there seems to be no reason why it should not he also 
applied to the higher culture, although the increasing complexity of 
social organization adds to the difficulties, but also to the interest of 
the work. 

Siam to-day is passing through a critical period in her 
history. She has passed far along the road towards westernization. 
But a careful observer may note that this change has come about 
almost entirely in the sphere of the profane. She is indebted to western 
culture for much that has added to her material well-being ; but here, 
as elsewhere in the East, western religion has failed to make any appeal. 
For her spiritual salvation Siam must look to her own cultural 
inheritance ; and it is fortunate that amongst the masses of the people 
her religion was perhaps never more influential, and the respect for 
the monarchy remains undiminished. In the words of Dr. Malinowski : 

" A society which makes its tradition sacred has gained by it an 
inestimable advantage of power and permanence. Such beliefs and 
practices, therefore, which put a halo of sanctity round tradition and a 
supernatural stamp upon it, will have a * survival value ' for the type 
of civilization in which they have been evolved. . . . They were bought 
at an extravagant price, and are to be maintained at any cost." l 

But there are many Siamese who do not know that. Though the 
kings of the present dynasty have been, perhaps not unnaturally, 
staunch upholders of ancient tradition, there are other Siamese in 
high positions, especially to be found amongst those who have been 
educated on foreign lines, who fail to distinguish between the facts 
that whereas it is good for Siam to make material improvements and 
break down old abuses, it is, on the contrary, suicidal for her to 
interfere with her religion and cultural inheritance. Since these people 
have Siam's future in their keeping, it is my hope that the attempt 
that is made in this book to show to what extent and in exactly what 
way the various State Ceremonies are of value for the maintenance 
of social integrity may be of use in guiding them in those modifications 
which the growth of education may make necessary, keeping that 

1 Science, Religion and Reality, p. 40. 


which is of lasting good in each ceremony and steadfastly setting 
their faces against complete abolition, which is almost always both 
undesirable and unjustifiable. 

That the present king is, like his predecessors of the dynasty, 
alive to the value of tradition, is exemplified by a speech which I 
recently (12th November, 1930) heard him make to the students of 
Vajiravudh College on the occasion of their Founder's Day. In the 
course of this speech he said that school tradition engendered a love 
of the. school and in learning how to love this, their own small world, 
the students learned to love their country, their world after leaving 
school, to admire and follow the traditions which their ancestors had 
carried on down from past ages. Thus, he said, the old traditions lived 
on to the present and proved a most excellent thing. It taught the 
people to think of the deeds of their ancestors and to work for their 
Country's progress. 

That there is abundant need for such advice as that contained in 
the royal speech above quoted is at once shown by taking a glance 
at the less pleasant side of the picture, which may be graphically 
illustrated by the following extract from a recent issue of a Bangkok 
newspaper : 

" Owing to the failure of the public in general to give proper 
attention and due respect to His Majesty the King when the Siamese 
National Anthem is being played after performances in the local 
entertainment halls, H.R.H. the Minister of Interior has issued an 
order to the police authorities to remedy the situation. It has been 
noticed that when the band strikes up the National Anthem some 
persons seem to pay little attention to it, while others walk out of the 
hall, quite oblivious to the patriotic custom. The police on duty 
have been instructed to remind the public when the tune is being 
played, and to take down the names of the offenders in the case of 
government officials or military men." l 

In the days of Old Siam there was no National Anthem. But had 
there been one, or had the people found themselves in the presence 
of a Royal Letter or any other symbol of royalty, they would have 
known quite well what to do. They would have immediately thrown 
themselves flat on their faces. That custom was abolished long ago 
in accordance with the needs of a new age. But what was left 
in its place ? Instead of a gradual modification, the schooling 
of the people in a new etiquette, they were, except for the 
immediate entourage of the king, left in complete ignorance as 
to what they should do in such circumstances. Thus, though the 
people are at present absolutely devoid of evil intent, the door 

1 Bangkok Daily Mail, 21st October, 1930. 


is left open for the dark teachings of communism, or whatever 
doctrines may chance to catch the ear of the masses, to* step in and 
hasten the work of social destruction. 

I have said that this is an attempt to combine the historical and 
functional methods of work. In the lower culture the functional 
method has had to work alone, for the reason that little was definitely 
known of the past, and it was left to the idle speculations of the 
*' antiquarian ", founded on the false evidence of explanatory myths 
and his own imagination. Very different, however, is that species of 
archaeological work that is founded on the written records and stone 
inscriptions of a people of the higher culture, carefully documented 
at every step and corroborated by reference to the histories of 
neighbouring countries ; and it seemed to me that with such a highly 
developed people as the Siamese much would be gained by a combina- 
tion of the functional and historical methods. For example, light maV 
sometimes be thrown on the real sociological significance of a custom 
by a knowledge of its history, when more direct methods of study have 
failed to afford a clue. Or the historical record of the abolition of a 
custom several centuries ago may afford valuable evidence as to the 
present trend of events and the future of the society. 

The sources of information of which use has been made in the 
present study of Siamese Court Ceremonies are as follows : 

1. Stone Inscriptions. Almost the only inscriptions which afford 
any details concerning Siamese State Ceremonies are those of the first 
Siamese kingdom of Sukhodaya, especially the famous inscription of 
King Kama Gamhen, which gives a remarkable amount of interesting 
information. These have been published by the Vajiranana National 
Library, with a French translation by M. Coedes. 1 Khmer epigraphy, 
despite its richness, has proved disappointing, the inscriptions 
consisting almost invariably of names of kings, dates, records of the 
founding of temples, and long lists of donations to religion ; but 
practically no ceremonial data whatever. 

2. Siamese Literature. This is the main source of information for 
the study of Siamese Religion and Ceremonial. Unfortunately, the 
national literature suffered a great blow when it was almost all 
destroyed at the fall of Ayudhya in A.D. 1767. Books entirely devoted 
to a single ceremony (i.e. in the case of Coronation and Cremation) 
will be considered in the chapters devoted to those ceremonies. Here 
may be mentioned a few books which are of great general importance 
in the study of Siamese State Ceremonial. The oldest of such writings 

1 Recueildes Inscriptions du Siam, pt. i, " Inscriptions de Sukhodaya," G. Coed&g, 
Bangkok, 1924. 


is the Kata Mandirapdla, or Book of Palace Law (hereafter referred to 
as KM.), which is known from a manuscript dated A.D. 1805, and is 
supposed to have existed in almost the same form from about the 
fifteenth century A.D. The text of this Law was published in Bradley 's 
edition of Siamese Kathmdy. It is archaic in style, often ambiguous, 
and, indeed, the Siamese themselves are uncertain as to the meaning 
of many passages. A book of which the nucleus is almost certainly 
as old or even older than the KM. is the Ro'an Nan Nabamdsa, or 
Story of Lady NabamaSa (hereafter referred to as NN.). The author 
is supposed to have been the daughter of a Brahman at the Court of 
one of the kings of Sukhodaya, and to have become one of the favourite 
wives of that king. From her father, and from the special opportunities 
that she enjoyed for personal observation, she acquired a remarkable 
knowledge of the State Ceremonies which were performed throughout 
the twelve months at that period, and she has left a short account of 
each, amongst other material, in the memoirs which purport to have 
been written by her. From the fact, however, that there is mention 
of the use of guns at Sukhodaya (about the thirteenth century), and 
there is also mention of the presence of Europeans and even Americans 
at the capital, much doubt has been thrown on the authenticity of 
this book as a whole. However, both Kings Rama IV and V believed 
in the authenticity of the greater part of the book, supposing that it 
had been revised at a recent period by a person whose ignorance made 
him unsuitable for the task. It seems to me also that the greater 
part of the book is sound, and I am particularly impressed by the 
fact that the descriptions of many of the ceremonies imply an earlier 
stage in their evolution, which is exactly what students would expect- 
to find, but does too much credit to the imagination of the editor, who 
calmly records the presence of firearms and Americans at Sukhodaya 
I therefore attach considerable importance to this book for the study 
of ceremonial during the period which immediately followed the 
setting-up of the first free Siamese kingdom. It was printed and 
published by the National Library in B.E. 2472 (A.D. 1929). Another 
valuable book of memoirs giving many details about Court Ceremonies 
in the Ayudhya period is Gam Hot Kara Khun Hlvan Hd Vat, or Evidence 
of Khun Hlvan Ha Vat (hereafter referred to as HV.), said to have 
been dictated by King Udumbara, the last king but one of Ayudhya. 
It was printed and published by the National Library in B.E. 2459 
(A.D. 1916). Both the usual versions of the Bansdvahtdra Krunkdu, 
or Annals of Ayudhya, and the version discovered in A.D. 1909 by 
Hlvan Prasoeth, and which bears his name, contain occasional 
references to State Ceremonies which are of interest. The ceremonial 


treatises in the possession of the Court Brahmans contain chiefly 
Sanskrit mantras in an Indian character and also short notes in 
Siamese for the carrying out of the rites. These books will be more 
fully discussed in Chapter V. All the above books were made use 
of by King Rama V in his voluminous Ro'an Brah Raja Bidhl Sipson 
Do an, Treatise on the Royal Ceremonies of the Twelve Months 
(hereafter referred to as BRB.). This is a most important work, 
though obviously intended for Siamese readers, and the author 
unfortunately died before completing the book, there being no account 
of the ceremonies for the eleventh month. The book was published 
by the National Library in B.E. 2463 (A.D. 1920). A historical work 
which gives valuable information concerning the revival of State 
Ceremonial at the beginning of the Bangkok Dynasty is the Brah 
Raja Bahsdvahtdra Krun Rdtanakosindra Rdjakdl Di Son, History of 
the Second Reign, by H.R.H. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, published 
by the National Library in B.E. 2459 (A.D. 1916). Lastly may be 
mentioned the Government Gazette, Rdjakiccdnupeksd, published 
periodically, since it was first brought out in the last reign ; the official 
programmes for ceremonies which it contains are sometimes useful. 
3. The works of European Authors. So far as Siam is concerned, 
these have, with few exceptions, been found to be almost useless for 
the purposes of the present study. Most of them devote considerable 
space to the better known ceremonies, but they are usually superficial 
and unreliable, or in search of the sensational, and my information has, 
therefore, been derived wherever possible from Siamese sources. 
Amongst the exceptions may be mentioned the precious work of 
La Loubere, ambassador from Louis XIV to the Court of Siam. 
However, most of the books in European languages, as well as numerous 
articles scattered throughout various periodical publications, have 
been carefully perused, and thus a good deal of information which 
would otherwise have been missed has been brought to light from 
scattered sources, which will be acknowledged in the body of this 
book. The only European writer who has given any of the Siamese 
State Ceremonies the thorough treatment they deserve is G. E. 
Gerini, whose monograph on the Tonsure Ceremony x contains many 
valuable notes on Siamese Brahman ritual which I have found useful. 
His derivations and theoretical work are, however, far from being as 
reliable as his facts. Another work by the same writer which is almost 
entirely unknown, but which is certainly worthy of notice, is the 
article on Festivals and Fasts (Siamese) in Hastings' Encyclopaedia 
of Religion and Ethics. Those short notes, based mainly on extracts 

1 Chuldkanta man gala, Bangkok, 1895. 


from King Rama V's treatise, form, so far as I know, the only notice 
on the less well known Ceremonies of the Twelve Months to be found 
in any European language. For information as to the closely related 
Cambodian Ceremonies, and the Khmer bas-reliefs of Ankor, I am 
indebted to the labours of the great French scholars. The works of 
Leclere on the Cambodian State Ceremonies have been especially 
valuable. 1 In tracing the ceremonies back to India the translations 
in the Sacred Books of the East and Dubois' Hindu Manners, Customs, 
and Ceremonies have been of great help, as has also, from the point 
of view of comparative ethnography, that mine of information, The 
Golden Bough. A large number of other works on India and the 
Indian Cultural Colonies have also been found useful, and will be 
acknowledged in the text. 

4. Personal Observation. Although I mention this source of 
information last, it certainly ranks with the study of Siamese literature 
as of the first importance. I have personally witnessed most of the 
public Ceremonies of State on more than one occasion, and was also 
fortunate in being present in Siam on the occasions of several Royal 
Cremations, the last Coronation, and the Reception of the White 
Elephant for the present reign. My official connection with the 
Lord Chamberlain's Department sometimes gave me special 
opportunities for observing ceremonial, and also brought me into 
close connection with the " atmosphere " of the Court, while the 
special studies which I made of the Brahmanic ritual in connection 
with the recent Swinging Festival (January, 1931) make the pages 
dealing with that subject perhaps the most satisfactory in this book. 
Apart from this, however, my observations have been mainly directed 
towards endeavouring to understand the functional value of the various 
ceremonies. Such functional value is almost entirely subconscious, 
for hardly any Siamese has any answer to make to the question 
" Why ? " other than gen dharmniam (" it is the custom "). One 
is at least not much hampered by explanatory myths now that western 
influence is beginning to make even the lower classes, at least in 
Bangkok, despise such things. Nevertheless, one must remember, 
that so long as a ceremony remains in practice, it must retain some 
influence over the life of society, however difficult it may be to 
estimate what is .the exact extent of such functional value. 

In the same way one can obtain little historical information from 
the modern Siamese. Priests and officials connected with the carrying 
out of ceremonies can tell one nothing beyond a bare description 

1 La Cremation et Us rites funeraires du Cambodge, Hanoi, 1906, and F&tes Civilea 
et Religieusea du Cambodge. 


of the rites and the order in which they must perform them. There 
are few Siamese scholars in the western sense, the most notable example 
being H.R.H. Prince Damrong, the author of many important works 
in connection with the history and culture of Siam, and to conversations 
with whom I am indebted for much valuable information. But as a 
general rule Siamese scholarship still suffers much from a failure to 
apply comparative methods and a bias in favour of everything that 
may now be called Siamese having originated in Siam. Such an 
outlook is surely fatal to research in any country which owes nearly 
every feature of its higher culture to contact with neighbouring 

After mature consideration I decided to adopt throughout this 
work the system of transliteration advocated by M. Coedes in his 
Recueil des Inscriptions du Siam, part i, p. 10, in the belief that such 
a scientific system will be more generally appreciated, and will in 
time be the one universally accepted. 1 In quoting M. Coedes' words 
on the subject, I bog to endorse them as equally applicable to the 
present work : 

" The transcription into Latin characters adopted in this volume 
is a scientific one, based on that of Sanskrit. For all alphabets derived 
from the Sanskrit, there are great advantages in making use of the 
transcription universally adopted for that language. I recognize, 
however, the practical utility of transcriptions which endeavour to 
reproduce the pronunciation. Such are those which M. Finot has 
employed for the Cambodian or for the Lao, and one might perhaps 
be able, in this work, to make some concessions to Siamese pronunciation, 
if it refer to purely Thai texts. But in view of the great number of 
Sanskrit and Pali words interpolated in the Siamese inscriptions, 
^ and the necessity of employing a single method of transcription, the 
repugnance which one feels in corrupting the Indian words to their 
Indo-Chinese pronunciation has resulted in the adoption of the transcrip- 
tion known as ' the Indianists' '. Whatever be the system adopted, 
the essential is that it permits one to reconstruct the original characters 
instantaneously. This is precisely the case in this transcription which 
is purely mechanical and does not attempt to reproduce either the 
modern pronunciation from which the ancient one differs without 
doubt on more than one point, or that ancient pronunciation which 
we do not know and perhaps shall never know." 

1 But I use s instead of f. and place the dot above the m instead of below it, in 
accordance with the English method of transliterating Sanskrit. 



It will be necessary to devote a chapter to the consideration of 
Siamese history with special reference to the trend of the various 
currents of influence which have built up Siamese culture as it is 
to-day. For a connected account of the obscure portion of the history 
of the country before the foundation of Ayudhya we are much indebted 
to the labours of H.R.H. Prince Damrong, whose work x on this period 
has been followed by W. A. R. Wood. 2 The researches of Prince 
Damrong are founded on a careful collation of all the available sources 
for study the Siamese annals, inscriptions, and the histories of 
neighbouring countries, including the Chinese chronicles. 3 Despite 
the fact that the earlier history of Siam is as yet by no means beyond 
the realms of controversy, it is possible for us to trace the general trend 
of cultural influences, which is all that is of primary importance to us 
in the present work. After the foundation of Ayudhya in A.D. 1350, 
Siamese tradition had become established and changed little until 
modern times. We need not, therefore, concern ourselves much with 
the dates of kings, the fates of dynasties, nor the accounts of battles, 
which loom so largely in later Siamese history, the adequate material 
for which has been very satisfactorily treated and attractively 
presented in Wood's book. 

The earliest inhabitants of what is now Siam were (1) Lava, 
fragments of which people still exist in the northern hill ranges, and 
(2) the Mon-Khmer, who stretched from what is now Cambodia 
through the Menam valley and the Malay country as far as Pegu. 

The first foreign voyagers to disturb these early inhabitants were 
parties of Indian traders who probably reached Pegu and the west 
coast of the Peninsula as early as the beginning of the Buddhist era, 
but the first real settlers probably did not come until the time of 
A^oka's invasion of Kalinga, after which refugees reached the Gulf 
of Siam and traded in Cambodia. Shortly after this, Asoka sent two 
missionaries, Sona and Uttara, to Suvarijabhumi, believed by Rhys 
Davids to refer to the region fiom Pegu to the Malay Peninsula; 
but though Pegu was almost certainly the first to feel this influence, 

1 Translated into English in JSS., vol. xiii. 

8 History of Siam, London, 1926. 

3 A full list of these sources is given in JSS., vol. xi. 



on account of its geographical position, it is probable that Hinayanism 
reached Nagara Pathama at a very early period. The form of 
Buddhism disseminated by the missionaries of A3oka was, of course, 
Hinayanism; and that this was the form first received in Siam is 
supported by the fact that ancient cetiya and cdkra wheels (which 
were used by the early Buddhists instead of images), dating from this 
time, have been found at Nagara Pathama. From here Hinayanism 
spread further along the shores of the Gulf, and even to Cambodia. 

About the end of the first century A.D. King Kaniska, under 
whom rose the Mahayana sect of Buddhism in the Punjab, sent 
missionaries to China, Tibet, and Southern India. From the latter 
point Mahayanism spread to the powerful kingdom of Srivijaya in 
Sumatra, which extended its sway over the Malay Peninsula up to 
about the twelfth century A.D. Thus Mahayanism found its way 
to Southern Siam, Central Siam, and Cambodia. Mahayanistic 
images " turning the wheel of the law " and dating from the early 
part of the Christian era have been found at Nagara Pathama, while 
from the third to the seventh century A.D. the Mons formed a kingdom 
known as Dvaravati in the Menarii valley, of which remains have 
been left in the shape of Sanskrit inscriptions and Buddhist images 
resembling the Sarnath school in India. Again, although after 
this time Brahmanism regained its ascendency in India, there 
were still Buddhist monarchs, and the missions of King Siladitya 
about A.D. 656 probably affected Siam and Cambodia. 

That the Indian settlers and the natives of Suvarnabhumi remained 
Buddhists for a long time is shown by the fact that there are no early 
Brahmanic ruins in the West. When Siva and Visnu worship arrived 
is not definitely known, but no doubt the Indian settlers kept up 
communications with their motherland and new settlers arrived. 
These, not liking to dwell amongst the Buddhists of the West, passed 
on further east to where the early settlers had not been converted to 
Buddhism. These Brahmanic Indians set up a powerful State in 
Cambodia, and then extended their rule further west over the Lao 
country and Suvarnabhumi, which accounts for later Brahmanic ruins 
being found nearly all over Siam. 

We must now consider the Thai, i.e. the ancestors of the modern 
Siamese, including their cousins, the so-called Lao, who inhabit the 
country formerly occupied by the ancient Lava. They began to move 
southwards in southern China about 100 B.C., and eventually set up 
a strong independent State (Nanchao) in the seventh century. From 
there they moved ever southwards, in response to pressure from the 
north, and entered the country now known as Siam. Their original 


religion is not known, but it is probable that they received the teachings 
of Mahayanism at a fairly early period. As they arrived within the 
bounds of the Khmer empire they found that the 'people of the 
country were of a religion which was by now a mixture of 
Brahmanism and Buddhism. They preferred Buddhism, but re- 
spected the Brahmans. 

The Thai threw off the yoke at Sukhodaya in A.D. 1237. The great 
King Kama Gamhen succeeded to the throne of the young State in 
1276. Under him the kingdom was vastly extended, and almost 
certainly included both Pegu and Nagara Sri Dharmaraja within its 
borders. An occurrence of importance in his reign was the opening 
up of political relations with China, two embassies having been 
received from Siam, according to the Chinese chronicles. King Rama 
Gamhen died in A.D. 1317, and the next king but one was King 
Dharmaraja I, who succeeded in 1353. From inscriptions we learn 
that he was versed in the Tripitaka, in Hindu ritual, skilled in astrology, 
and able to cast the calendar ; that he erected a school for Buddhist 
and Brahman priests and sent a mission to Ceylon to bring away 
certain relics. Most important of all, the intercourse which had 
sprung up with Ceylon since the foundation of the Sukhodaya State 
culminated in the invitation to the Patriarch of Ceylon to come and 
teach in Siam where a monastery was built for him. To this period 
Siam, and also Cambodia, owe their final conversion to Hinayanism ; 
and this was largely due to the Siamese monarch's respect for and 
desire to emulate the actions of the great King Parakrama Bahu of 
Ceylon, who was almost a contemporary of Rama Gamhen. Towards 
the end of his life the pious King Dharmaraja I actually became 
a monk. 

After the time of King Rama Gamhen the temporal power of 
Sukhodaya began to wane. Pegu was lost by Dharmaraja I, and 
with his successors the territorial extent of the short-lived State 
further diminished. A rival power sprung up at Udon, near the 
modern town of Suvarna, and its prince conquered Labapuri, the old 
city of Ayudhya and Candapuri, parts of the old Khmer empire 
which had never even fallen under the sway of Rama Gamhen. The 
prince of Tldon founded Ayudhya in A.D. 1350 with the title of 
Ramadhipati I. This was the beginning of the present kingdom of 
Siam, and by about 1400 the remnant of the old kingdom of Sukhodaya 
had passed under the sway of Ayudhya. 

We need not follow the history of Siam during the next four 
centuries in any detail. This was the period during which the splendour 
of the reyal city of Ayudhya was consolidated, and we find little cultural 


change, even when contact with European civilization was established. 
Much of its written history is occupied with the fates of dynasties, the 
bloodthirsty wars against the Burmese on the west, and the less serious 
ones against the Cambodians on the east. We need only notice the 
following features : 

Intercourse with Ceylon continued to be on a friendly footing, and 
mostly concerned with religion, and in response to the request of an 
embassy from Ceylon a religious mission was dispatched from Ayudhya 
in 1753 to bring about the purification of the Buddhist faith which 
was said to be effete there. 

Friendly relations between Siam and China existed in the latter 
half of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries. 
In 1592 the King of Siam offered to send an army to assist China in a 
war against Japan, but the offer was refused. It seems probable that 
throughout the whole of the Ayudhya period there were occasional 
exchanges of good wishes between the sovereigns of Siam and China, 
the former no doubt wishing to remain on good terms with their 
" elder brother ", though never admitting Chinese suzerainty. 

Cambodia ceased to trouble Siam seriously after the foundation 
of Ayudhya. In fact, it usually occupied the position of a vassal 
State. It ceased to have any cultural influence on Siam ; indeed, the 
influence was rather the other way. 

On the other hand, Burma becomes of primary importance twice 
in the history of the Ayudhya period. The Siamese capital was first 
captured in A.D. 1569, after which Siam was overrun by the Burmese 
for the space of fifteen years until rescued by the efforts of the hero 
King Naresvara. The second and final destruction of Ayudhya took 
place in 1767, after a prolonged siege. This was followed by a short 
period of anarchy but fortunately a strong leader, a man of humble 
birth and Chinese extraction, appeared on the scene and drove out 
the Burmese. The name of this leader was Brahya Tak, and he 
established his capital at Dhanapuri, on the river opposite to where 
Bangkok now stands. He ruled with a firm hand, and completely 
re-established the country until, in 1782, he became insane, and was 
deposed by one of his generals, Cau Brahya Cakrl, who became the 
first king of the present dynasty. 

The first three kings of the Bangkok period (Cakrl Dynasty) were 
mainly engaged in endeavouring to restore and imitate the glories 
of Ayudhya, and they had little inclination to enter into relations 
with foreign powers. It was the fourth king (Rama IV) who was the 
first to open up modern diplomatic intercourse with European nations, 
to study English, and to introduce western material improvements. 



But he was a great supporter of the cultural institutions of his country, 
and a deeply religious man who had spent twenty-seven years in the 
priesthood before being called to the throne. On the whole, therefore, 
the period ending with his death in 1868 may be rightly referred to as 
" Old Siam ", and that is the term I shall use throughout this volume, 
to distinguish it from the new era of rapid material progress which 
may be said to have really begun with the fifth reign. King Kama IV 
is of special interest to us in the present work, because it was due to 
his staunch faith in Buddhism that many of the State Ceremonies 
received their Buddhist modifications and additions. The personal 
religious inclinations of Siamese kings usually left their mark on the 
State Ceremonies of the time. Thus King Draft Dharma (A.D. 1610-28) 
was a great supporter of Buddhism. On the other hand, King Nara- 
yana (A.D. 1657-88) is known to have favoured Brahmanism. But 
perhaps no other Siamese king ever had the knowledge and ability 
which enabled Rama IV to interest himself so deeply in the work 
of religious reform. The later kings of the dynasty have successfully 
carried on the work of adapting Siam to new conditions, while at the 
same time maintaining a respect for ancient tradition, King Rama V 
having particularly endeared himself to the memory of his subjects 
by the abolition of slavery and by other wise and good measures. 

The following is a list of those kings who, from our point of view, 
are the most important in the cultural history of Siam, and to most 
of whom frequent reference will be made in the course of this book : 


il Indraditya 
Rama Gaihhefi 
Dharmaraja I 

Important Kings of Sukhodaya 

Reigned (A.D.) 

1237-about 1270 

1347-about 1370 

Important Kings of Ayudhyd 

Ramadhipati I 


Dran Dharma 

Prasada Don 






King of Dtianapuri 
Tak 1767-1782 

Kings of the Cdkri (Bangkok) Dynasty 

Brah Buddha Yot Fa Culalokya (Rama I) . . 1782-1809 

Brah Buddha Lo's Hla Nabalaya (Rama II) . 1809-1824 

Brah Nan Klau (Rama III) .... 1824-1851 

Mahamankut (Rama IV) 1851-1868 

Culalankarana (Rama V) 1868-1910 

Vajiravudh (Rama VI) 1910-1925 

Prajadhipok ..... Succeeded 1925 

The names Rama I- VI were introduced by King Vajiravudh, 
and will be used in this volume to denote the first six kings of the 

I now come to what, for the purposes of the present work, will 
be the most important part of the historical outline ; in it I shall 
attempt to summarize the cultural influences that have been brought 
to bear on the Thai in the course of their evolution from a tribe of 
nomads in southern China to their present position as the rulers of 
the modern kingdom of Siam. In this summary I shall primarily 
consider the development of the Thai, other races being considered 
only in so far as they have influenced the Thai. The foundation on 
which these influences have been brought to bear was the original 
stock of primitive culture possessed by the early Thai nomads, and 
later the independent Thai States in South China. This origina 
stock, after having undergone centuries of foreign influence, was the 
heritage of the first independent Thai kingdom in Siam, which was 
founded at Sukhodaya in A.D. 1237. This heritage was in turn passed 
on, not without undergoing vital change, to the second great Thai 
kingdom of Ayudhya, and after the destruction of this capital in 
1767 the early kings of the Cakri dynasty made every effort 
to collect and restore all that was known about the culture of 

While not denying the possibility of other sources of external 
influence, we may divide the foreign influences, so far as they are 
known, into two main divisions, Chinese and Indian. 


(a) Chinese. 

(1) The earliest foreign influence brought to bear on the Thai was 
almost certainly Chinese. The early Thai must have 'been animists, 
but how much of the animism that we see amongst the modern 
Siamese peasants is of pure Thai origin, and how much was derived 
from China at an early period and in later times from India, is difficult 
to determine. The chronicles of the Sui dynasty give interesling 
details of court life at Nanchao in which we can detect Chinese influence. 
It is also important to note that, dating from the first contact of the 
Thai with the Chinese, many words are common to both the Thai 
and Chinese languages, e.g. most of the Siamese numerals are of 
Chinese origin. 

(2) The influence resulting from the interchange of embassies 
during the Sukhodaya period and later was probably mainly of a 
temporal nature, affecting chiefly Court manners and the style in which 
foreign ambassadors were received, etc. But the door was perhaps 
never closed against the exchange of cultural ideas between China 
and Siam. 

(3) There was a certain amount of interest in Chinese culture in 
the early years which followed the fall of Ayudhya. This was perhaps 
in the main due to the fact that King Tak was of Chinese extraction. 
The courtyards of some of the older Bangkok temples are decorated 
with the figures of Chinese sages. But this contact came too late, and 
was too limited in duration, to have much, if any, effect on court usages. 
It seems, therefore, that while the Chinese was the earliest influence 
on Thai culture, it has in course of time become almost negligible, 
since it has been swamped to such an extent by superimposed Indian 
influence that few traces remain of it. The vast numbers of Chinese 
coolies and merchants who have taken up their abode in Bangkok 
have had no influence whatever on Siamese culture. They either carry 
on life according to their own customs and often return to China, or, 
marrying Siamese women, are easily absorbed by Siam. 

(6) Indian. 

Indian influence on Siamese culture was partly the result of direct 
contact with Indian settlers, but mainly it was brought about indirectly 
via the Indianized kingdoms of Dvaravati, Srivijaya, and Cambodia. 
We can trace the influence of the Khmers fairly clearly, but the 
other two kingdoms, especially Srivijaya, exerted a strong if undefined 
influence over the development of Khmer culture, and hence of that 


of Siam, the extent of which is hardly yet realized. 1 The various 
streams of Indian influence, direct and indirect, may be classified 
as follows : 

(1) Indian Mahayanistic influence originating in the Punjab, 
and reaching Siam and Cambodia via Southern India, Srivijaya, and 
South Siam. It began about the end of the first century A.D., and 
probably continued well into the seventh century. It was the means 
of the conversion of both Thai and Khmers to Mahayana Buddhism. 

(2) Indian Vaisnava Brahmanism. This reached Cambodia during 
the early centuries of the Christian era. The Thai people never became 
Hindus, but the kings of Sukhodaya recruited their Vaisnava Court 
Brahmans from Cambodia, and assumed much of the Cambodian 
Vaisnava Court Ceremonial. This intercourse with Cambodia was 
revived from time to time during the succeeding centuries. 

(3) Indian Saiva Brahmanism. Waves of this cult reached the 
Peninsula probably between the eighth and twelfth centuries A.D., 
and streams of later Indian settlers probably introduced modifications. 
But, although Nagara Sri Dharmaraja came under the rule of King 
Rama Garimen it was at that time under a Buddhist king and, as 
there were also Saiva Brahmans in Cambodia, they were probably 
recruited from that source. Later, during the Ayudhya period, when 
Brahmanism was moribund in Cambodia, the Saiva Brahmans were 
obtained from the Peninsula. After the destruction of the old capital 
in A.D. 1767 both Visnu and Siva Brahmans, or at least those who were 
able to escape from the Burmese, fled to Nagara Sri Dharmaraja, 
whence they were recalled at the foundation of Bangkok. 

(4) Sinhalese Hlnayanistic influence. This is of the utmost 
importance. The Mon inscriptions of Lambun show that Peguan 
influences reached Northern Siam about the twelfth century, but it 
is probable that it was as a result of Sinhalese missions that the mass 
conversion of both Thai and Khmers to the Hinayana form of the 
faith took place in the thirteenth century. Siamese royal customs 
were also to some extent affected by the desire of the Siamese monarchs 
to follow the example set by the great Sinhalese King Parakrama 
Bahu. Religious intercourse with Ceylon has been kept up until the 
present day. 

The study of Siamese State Ceremonial which forms the subject 
of this book will illustrate the nature and extent of these foreign 
influences on Siamese culture. The omission of any mention of 
Burmese influence perhaps calls for notice before concluding this 

1 Coed&s, Recueil des Inscriptions du Siam, part ii, pp. 1-5. 


chapter. After much consideration it appears to me that such is 
negligible because the Siamese and Burmese have almost always been 
at enmity, a mountain barrier separates the two countries, and inter- 
course has always taken the form of warlike incursions into each other's 
territory. The last thing the Siamese would have consciously done 
would have been to copy any Burmese custom. Cultural resemblances 
are entirely due to a common origin, both the Burmese and Siamese 
owing much to the earlier Indian civilization of the Mons. Never- 
theless, the very fact of this common origin makes the study of Burmese 
forms a by no means barren field for research in connection with the 
present inquiry. 



In old Siam the inhabitants of the country were considered only as 
the goods and chattels of the king, who had absolute power over their 
lives and property, and could use them as best suited his purpose. 
Otherwise they were of no importance whatever. Kather different, 
however, must be the sociologist's point of view, since it is his duty 
to consider the condition of a society as a whole ; and in this work 
every effort is made to explain each ceremony in the light of its 
functional value to the society. This being so, it will be necessary to 
give a short account of the structure of the Siamese society. 1 

We are first considering the conditions in Old Siam, conditions 
which probably altered little from the early days of Ayudhya until 
the time of King Rama IV, because it was under this regime that the 
Court Ceremonial of to-day was built up and assumed its mature form. 
The absolutism of the monarch was accompanied and indeed maintained 
by the utmost severity, kings of Ayudhya practising cruelties on their 
subjects for no other purpose than that of imbuing them with humility 
and meekness. Indeed, more gentle methods would have been looked 
upon as signs of weakness, since fear was the only attitude towards the 
throne which was understood, and tyranny the only means by which 
the government could be maintained. Despite the fact that all were 
equally of no account in the presence of the king, a many-graded social 
organization had been evolved, and the ingrained habit of fear and 
obedience produced a deep reverence for all forms of authority. The 
grading of the members of the royal family is a matter of extreme 
complexity. The KM. gives a detailed account of the ranks and 
privileges of the various princes and princesses, but for our purposes 
it will be sufficient to note the following : The sons and daughters of 
the king and queen, or queens, are known as Cau Fa, while those of 
the king and^ ladies who are not queens are Brah Aiiga Cau. The 
children of Cau Fa and Brah Anga Cau are called Hmdm Cau. The 
latter are the lowest in rank to be considered as real princes ; for 
though their children and grandchildren are known respectively as 
Hmom Raja Vansa and Hmdm Pllvah, they usually drop their title 
of royalty on attaining to any civil or military rank. The children 

1 Some of the facts in the earlier part of this chapter are derived from the chapter 
on "Social Organisation " in Graham's Siam, vol. i. . 



of Hmorn fflvan are commoners ; and here we come to a very important 
point, the disappearance of all title to royalty at the fifth generation. 
This was the same in Cambodia, and descendants of the fifth genera- 
tion could not succeed even in the case of complete extinction of the 
line. 1 Nevertheless, princes of the Hmtim Cau rank are sometimes 
promoted to Brak Anga Cau rank at birth. Princes of the rank of 

1> Is * Is 

Cau Fa and Brah Anga Cau, on attaining manhood, may be appointed 
to any of the following ranks, in order of increasing importance : 
Kram Hmu'n, Kram Khun, Kram Hlvan, Kram Brah, Kram Brahyd, 
and Samtec Kram Brahyd. These ranks usually carried with them 
the control of a Kram (government department), or the governorship 
of a province, but they are now only titles of honour. 

The highest officials in the land were the Mahd Ugardja, or Van Na, 
known to Europeans as the Second King, and of whom more 
will be said in the next chapter; the Van Hldn, originally the 
commander of the rear-guard ; and six Ministers whose titles were 
Cdkri, Van, Baladeba, Brah Gldh, Krahldhom, and Yamardja. The 
first two of these were always princes ; the others were sometimes 
royal, but usually not, and bore the title of Oknd and, later, Brahyd 
or Cau Brahyd, the highest of the official ranks still in use. These 
non-hereditary ranks are as follows, in descending order : Samtec 
Cau Brahyd (now extinct), Cau Brahyd, Brahyd, Brah, Hlvan, Khun, 
and Hmu'n. Officials, both princes and nobles, received a certain 
number of marks of dignity called sakti nd, formerly carrying a certain 
grant of land, but now purely honorary, while princes and the higher 
nobles are presented with insignia consisting of golden teapots and 
betel-boxes, which denote their rank. The personal attendants of 
the king were a body of Royal Pages, known as the Kram Mahhatkk 
(Lord Chamberlain's Department), the members of which were usually 
marked out for preferment; but this department was abolished by 
the present king. All these officials were continually occupied in 
showing the necessary amount of deference to those above them, 
and to the king at the top, while mercilessly grinding down those 
below them in the social scale. 

The great mass of the people were divided into a number of 
departments for public service, called Lekh, the members of which 
were numbered and branded by the noblemen in charge of each 
department. This system was the relic of an earlier feudal form of 
government. The Lekh were either Svdy, the members of which 
were exempted from personal service on payment of part of their 

1 A., vol. i, p. 62. 


produce or a tax ; or Brhi, the vast majority of the people, who were 
collected in rotation as required, obliged to serve as soldiers, sailors, 
and other public menials, and for whom no escape was possible, the 
status being hereditary. Occupying the lowest place in the social 
scale were the slaves, who were either redeemable debt-slaves, or 
children born in slavery or sold by their parents, and for whom there 
was no release ; but it must be added that Siamese slavery was 
always of a very mild type. 

Anything in the nature of social intercourse or club life amongst 
the members of the noble and official classes was frowned upon by 
the monarchy, and social life centred round the Court alone. This 
state of affairs was strengthened by the fact that royalty died out at 
the fifth generation, as it still does, and that officials were always 
known, not by their own names, but by the office which they held. 
Thus great and influential families were never formed, and the memory 
of distinguished men died with them. 

The reforms of King Rama V brought about great changes, many 
of them for the better, in the life of the Siamese masses. One of the 
most far-reaching of these was the abolition of slavery ; another was 
the abolition of bodily prostration of inferiors in the presence of their 
superiors. The government and forces of defence were thoroughly 
reorganized on European lines, ministers being chosen from amongst 
those of the younger generation who had received a European educa- 
tion. While many old offices passed away and new ones came into 
being, the old official titles were often retained, but the holders began 
to be known by their own names. King Rama VI continued the 
work of reform and did much to create a healthy social life amongst 
the- middle classes by the introduction of European games and sports. 
He also endeavoured to institute pride of family by the introduction 
of surnames. The women of all classes except the upper had always 
been perfectly free in Siam, and King Rama VI did much to bring 
about the education and emancipation of the ladies of the upper 
class. He set his face against polygamy and made some progress in 
persuading the nobility to do likewise. Reforms in dress were 
instituted, and orders were conferred on those who had distinguished 
themselves in the service of the State. In short, every effort was 
made to instil into the Siamese the spirit of independence and the 
pride of nationality. 

We must now consider how deeply these reforms really struck their 
roots into society. That they have been crowned with a considerable 
measure of success is evident from the present stability of the govern- 
ment and prosperity of the people. Nevertheless, it must be 


remembered that reform was mainly confined to material needs, the 
relief of which has added much to the well-being of the people. But 
every care was taken to see that the cultural tradition of the Siamese 
should be preserved, especially in regard to religion and respect for 
the monarchy. To quote the words of Graham: 

" The absolutism of the monarchy, though outwardly modified 
by the constitution decreed in 1874, and veiled behind that 
consideration for his subjects which is His Majesty's chief concern, 
is as complete in spirit to-day as it was in the darkest period of 
tyrannical oppression which the nation has ever endured. The 
monarchy demands now, as it has always done, the most complete sub- 
mission of the entire people not only to every decree issued by the 
king but, in theory, to his lightest whim or caprice, and the hereditary 
instincts of the race prompt it to render such obedience without 
question and without resentment, no matter what sufferings such 
obedience might conceivably entail." x 

So great, it may be added, are these hereditary instincts, that 
bodily prostration still lingers to some extent although it is, of course, 
entirely voluntary. Siamese servants often crouch in the presence 
of their masters, officials lie almost full length when they are offering 
anything to the King on his throne, and I have seen ladies of the 
older generation crawling on their hands and knees when in the 
presence of a prince of high rank with whom they held conversation 
with their faces parallel to the ground, while the prince was seated 
in a chair. While the old instincts thus lurk so closely beneath the 
surface there can be no doubt but that the monarchy still remains 
the most important factor in the Siamese social organization. 

It remains to say a few words about the religion of the Siamese 
people. We need not consider those religions such as Mahommedanlsm 
and Christianity which have been introduced into Siam by foreigners 
in comparatively recent times. They never had any effect on the 
Siamese other than to strengthen their faith in Hlnayanistic Buddhism 
which has been the national religion since the Thai first became 
independent in the thirteenth century. The Siamese are very devout, 
but they take their religion light-heartedly, because they are a light- 
hearted people. The part played in social life by the popular form of 
the religion professed by the masses is familiar to those who know 
anything of Siam ; so that it is unnecessary to dwell on the importance 
of the Buddhist festivals frequently held at the numerous vats, or 
monasteries, which still provide almost the only opportunities for social 
intercourse and exchange of ideas among the country people. The 

1 Siam, i, 232. 


yellow-robed monks are one of the most characteristic features of 
every town and village as they go on their begging rounds in the 
morning or take part in some cremation or housewarming ceremony. 
Then again most children receive their early education in the monastery 
schools, and later on it is the custom for every male Siamese to don 
the yellow robe for at least a few weeks or months. Some stay on and 
devote their lives to probing the deeper mysteries of Buddhism, and 
in Bangkok there are monks of great learning and piety, and a 
renowned school of Pali. 

From our immediate point of view Buddhism is chiefly of importance 
in that it has instilled into the people the spirit of humility and cheerful 
forbearance which has, in times past, enabled them to bear the 
oppression and tyranny of an absolute monarchy, and which, now 
that conditions have changed for the better, still acts as a powerful 
force in uniting them in loyalty to the Throne. Thus, Buddhism in 
its popular form is a religion of the people ; in its higher form it is a 
deeply spiritual religion, the inspiration of those who are tired of the 
world and the hollowness of its attractions. It is not, therefore, 
primarily the religion of kings, though it owes its growth to their 
fostering protection. But, though the more material religion of the 
Hindus lends itself especially to the support of kingship, and though 
the Siamese people still to a limited extent respect the Brahmanic 
deities, there can be no doubt as to the great sociological value of the 
Buddhist modifications which have been added on to most of the State 
Ceremonies, in bringing together monarch and people in mutual 
understanding. This will be more fully appreciated in the course of 
this book. 





We have seen that the Siamese monarchy is absolute. We must 
now endeavour to show on what principles this absolutism is based, 
and why it has maintained such a powerful hold over the minds as 
well as the bodies of the Siamese people. 

The loose expression "divine", which has been popularly applied 
to the Siamese kingship, requires considerable modification and analysis. 
As H.R.H. Prince Damrong has pointed out in his Tdmndn Susan 
Hlvah Vat Debsirindra, 1 the Siamese conception of the kingship has 
always depended on the religious point of view of the people. There 
may have been an earlier pre-historical pre-religious stage when kings 
were evolved from magicians, but history only gives us two conceptions 
the Hindu and the Buddhist. 

According to the Hindu theory, the king is identified with either 
Siva or Visnu, and this theory attained its greatest importance in 
ancient Cambodia. 2 It was introduced into that country by Jayavar- 
man II, who ascended the throne in A.D. 802, and was known as the 

" cult of the Kamrateii Jagat ta rajya (the god who is the kingdom) 
or the Deva-riija (the Royal God). This deity (which was a Siva-linga) 
represented the royal essence present in the living king of Kambuja 
and in all her kings." 3 

The Royal God was not the king of the gods (i.e. Indra), but a god of 
the king, either Siva or Visnu, presenting certain peculiarities and 
identified with a great ancestor or a legendary founder of the kingdom. 
A similar cult existed in Central Java and in Campa, and all these 
may have had a common origin in the Kunjara-Kunja in South India. 
In Cambodia the posthumous titles of kings often indicated that they 
had gone to the heavens of their favourite deities, such as Sivaloka 
and Visnuloka ; and not only kings, but also other distinguished 
persons, were frequently, from the ninth to the end of the twelfth 
century, identified, even during their lifetimes, with either Siva or 
Durga, according to their sex. Thus we learn from an inscription 
that in the Khmer temple of Loley, the two images of Siva, which 
bore the names of Indra varmeSvara and Mahapatisvara respectively, 

1 Bangkok, 1927. 

a A., iii, pp. 581-4 ; C., pp. 103 and 245 sq. 

3 C., p. 245. 



represented King YaSovarman's father and maternal grandfather, 
Indravarman and Mahapativarman. Such images, though bearing 
the attributes of the god, had the facial characteristics of the persons 
they commemorated ; and the temples in which they were preserved 
were also portrait galleries in which ancestor worship was combined 
with the worship of the god. Such images were also made by the 
Thai after they became independent, and the modern representative 
of such a statue hall is the Pantheon in the Grand Palace at Bangkok, 
where the king and the people pay their respects on certain days to 
the life-size gold images of the monarchs of the present dynasty. 
True they are realistic portrait statues, and not, as formerly, idealistic 
god-like interpretations ; but this is only an innovation of the Bangkok 

No doubt the Khmer cult of the Deva-raja and the deification of 
kings was only a highly specialized form of an earlier Indian conception 
of divine kingship, exemplified by the following passage from Manu : 

" Even an infant king must not be despised (from an idea) that 
he is a mere mortal, for he is a great deity in human form." 1 

Again, in Narada, we have : 

" How should a king be inferior to a deity, as it is through his 
word that an offender may become innocent, and an innocent man 
an offender in due course ? " 2 

Still earlier, we are told that the king 

- " is Indra for a twofold reason, namely, because he is a Ksatriya, and 
because he is a Sacrificer ". 3 

And, as we shall see later, although the Khmer and Siamese kings were 
identified with the later Brahmanical gods, such as Siva and Visnu, 
there are features that indicate that in Siam we have survivals which 
support Hocart's theory 4 that in Vedic times or earlier the king was 
identified with the sun. 

The rise of Mahayanistic Buddhism in Cambodia brought about 
no great reaction against the cult of the Royal God, although Buddhist 
deities probably to a great extent supplanted the Brahmanical ones, 
and we find that Suryavarman I (A.D. 1002), a Buddhist king, was 
known by the posthumous title of Nirvanapada. The Hinayanistic 

1 Manu, chap, vii, 8, in SBE. xxv. 

2 Narada, xviii, 52, in SBE. xxxiii. 

8 SatapaAha Brahmana, v, 4, 3, 7, in SBE. vol. xli, p. 99. 
4 Hocart, Kingship, chap. ii. 


conversion, however, brought about a definite change, and in ftiam 
to-day we find the only certain relic of the cult of the Royal God in 
the symbolism of the Coronation Ceremony by which the Brahman 
priests call down the spirits of Visnu and Siva to animate the new 
king ; but possibly also in the role played by the king as iva now or 
formerly in the Tonsure, Ploughing, and Swinging Ceremonies, and in 
the Meru and Kailasa mountains used on certain ceremonial occasions. 

With Hinayanism the Mahayanistic deities were not recognized, 
and the Hindu gods were reduced to the rank of spirits ministering 
to the Buddha, or demi-gods ruling over the inferior heavens. In fact, 
though they were fitted into the Buddhist scheme of things they were 
no longer taken seriously ; and no Buddhist king would have been 
flattered to have been told that he was the incarnation of a Hindu 
deity and nothing more. The conception of the king under Hina- 
yanism is obviouslv that he is a Bodhisattva or incipient Buddha, or 
else a Cakravartin (Universal Emperor), and this belief, which is still 
held by all orthodox Siamese Buddhists, is derived proximately from 
imitation of the great Sinhalese kings and is strengthened in the minds 
of the people by the evidence of the popular Indian Jdtaka stories. 

Since, according to the tenets of the Hinayana form of Buddhism, 
the accumulation of merit is rewarded by rebirth in happy conditions, 
just as certainly as beggars and criminals are paying for the demerit 
piled up by evil deeds in former lives, one might suppose that a 
Buddhist king would always be particularly careful as to the nature 
of his actions, and, still being subject to the Wheel of the Law, would 
probably rule more justly than would a Hindu monarch. Unfortunately, 
however, history makes it quite clear that the teachings of Buddhism 
were no more successful in restraining despotic rulers in Siam than 
were those of other religions elsewhere, and it was always easy for a 
tyrannical monarch to expiate a life of crime by forcing an army of 
slaves to build a giant pagoda. Indeed, strangely enough, Buddhism 
led to what is a world- wide later conception of the Divine Kingship 
associated with the most overbearing despotism. A Hindu king was 
regarded as the receptacle of the god, of the divine essence. He was 
even identified pantheistically with the god ; but he was not the god 
himself. In Buddhism the king is a Bodhisattva or a Cakravartin, 
a greater being in the eyes of the Buddhists than any Hindu god. 
When added to this it be remembered that to this day the correct 
phrase for expressing " I " when addressing the Siamese king means 
" the Lord Buddha's slave ", can one wonder that ambitious monarchs 
sometimes forgot the humility inculcated by Buddhism, and were 
tempted to endeavour to accelerate the process of attaining complete 


enlightenment, to attempt to rid themselves of the galling necessity 
of showing reverence to the humble yellow-robed monk, even to 
proclaim themselves the coming Maitreya Buddha ? Such attempts 
have always met short shrift from the priesthood, it being such an 
erior of judgment that led to the undoing of King Tak ; and at 
least one similar instance occurs in Burmese history. 

It will thus be understood that the condition of the people in 
Siam has always depended less on the particular conception of the 
kingship Brahmanical, Buddhist, or, as it later became, a mixture 
of the two than it has on the character of the individual monarch. 
But, broadly speaking, the functional value of the Divine Kingship, 
whether from a Brahmanical or Buddhist viewpoint, is obvious to 
anyone who appreciates the present state of civilization of the Siamese 
masses. With an education still almost confined to the religious 
sphere, and bred up on the exploits of the Indian hero Rama, the 
conception of a king as a superior being, to be obeyed implicitly, is 
the only one known to the ordinary Siamese. He has no wish for a 
share in the government, he does not trouble about politics, and he is 
as yet unfitted for any other regime than the present. It is certain, 
therefore, that any conception of the kingship that strengthens his 
belief in the ruling power is of the highest sociological value. That his 
belief and loyalty are in the main supported by the pomp and glamour 
of Royal Ceremonial will be shown in the course of this book ; but the 
present is a suitable place to consider in some detail those prohibitions 
or taboos with which Divine Kingship is always hedged around and, 
in surrounding it with an air of mystery and sanctity, are performing 
a no less important share in its maintenance than is Royal Ceremonial 
itself. The following is an attempt to analyse the functional value 
and arrive at the historical derivation of those royal taboos that have 
come to my notice. 

1 . The King's person was tabooed, more especially the head and hair. 

That the king's person is too sacred to be touched is an idea perhaps 
universally connected with the divine kingship, and certainly prevalent 
in all the Indian states, which is probably the direction from which it 
reached Siam. In the Mahavamsa it is recorded that : 

" Going down even knee-deep into the water the king respectfully 
gave his right hand to the them, as he came down from the ship." l 

The point was specially mentioned because in the ordinary way to 
touch the king's hand was a crime punishable by death. In Siam at 

i M. v, 255. 


the present day we have what appears to be a relic of this in the fact 
that things are always handed to the king through the medium of a 
golden plato or bowl, never directly by hand. 

On board the royal barges there are, or were until recently, bundles 
of cocoa-nuts intended to be thrown to the king or any member of the 
royal family in the event of the barge foundering, for it was forbidden 
on pain of death for any person to lay hands on royalty to save them 
from drowning. A well known instance of the operation of this taboo 
is the tragic death of King Rama V's first queen, who was drowned 
in full view of numerous bystanders who dared not save her. The 
rules on this subject are indeed expressly laid down in the KM., from 
which I translate the following passage : " If a boat (royal barge) 
founders, the boatmen must swim away; if they remain near the 
boat they are to be executed. If the boat founders and the royal 
person falls into the water and is about to drown let the boatmen 
stretch out the signal-spear and throw the cocoa-nuts so that he may 
grasp them if he can. If he cannot, they may let him seize the 
signal-spear. If they lay hold of him to rescue him they are to be 
executed. He who throws the cocoa-nuts is to be rewarded with forty 
ticals of silver and one gold basin. If the barge sinks and some- 
one else sees the cocoa-nuts thrown and goes to save the royal person, 
the punishment is double and all his family is to be exterminated. 
If the barge founders and someone throws the cocoa-nuts so that they 
float towards the shore (i.e. away from the royal person), his throat 
is to be cut and his home confiscated." 

The inhibition against touching the royal head or hair seems to 
be a specialized development of the general taboo against touching 
any. part of the royal person. Frazer * has collected much evidence 
to show that there is a widespread taboo of head and hair; and 
Siamese of whatever rank object to anyone touching the head, and 
used to dislike the idea of anyone walking overhead. This belief 
seems to be founded to a great extent on the supposed existence of a 
guardian spirit (khvdil) in the head, who easily takes offence at the 
slightest indignity of this nature, with disastrous effects on the welfare 
of the individual ; while there is also the supposition that the hair 
must be the most sacred part of the body by reason of the superior 
position that it occupies, and it is evidently this belief that has given 
rise to the use of the word pham " hair " for " I " when speaking 
to superiors, meaning that only the most noble part of the speaker 
dares to address the superior person spoken to. 

There being so much respect for the head amongst even the lowest 

1 OB. iii, pp. 252 sqq. 


classes of Siamese, it is not remarkable that the king's head should he 
particularly sacred. As La Loubere remarks : 

" The most considerable of all (the officers of the Wardrobe) 
is he that touches his Bonnet, although he be not permitted to put it 
upon the Head of the King, his Master." 1 

Again, while the Tonsure (Brahmanical Initiation Ceremony) 
of even the poorest child is carried out with the greatest care 
not to bring about those calamities which would certainly follow 
any injury to the khvdn, the Tonsure of a royal prince is attended with 
those elaborate rites of which some account will be given in Chapter X. 
But whereas the ordinary Siamese undergoes the usual periodical 
hair-cutting with no greater ceremony than does the European, the 
king used not to be allowed the attention of the barber without the 
due performance of certain magical rites intended to avert the evils 
which might follow touching the king's head in this manner. On these 
occasions certain propitiatory verses (sebhd) were, and I understand 
still are, recited during the hair-cutting. Sebhd are songs of an amatory 
nature, and the one recited at the king's hair-cutting is the well-known 
Khun Jan Khun Phen, a scurrilous story of the illicit affairs of noble- 
men and their wives, ending in the assassination of the king by the 
state sword at the hands of the son of one of the noblemen, these 
events being supposed to have taken place as long ago as A.D. 185. 
The reading is intended to act as an admonition against possible 
dangers from the barber's sharpened tools, and on such occasions it 
is an old custom to use scissors with blunt points, the use of the razor 
being proscribed, while to prevent other accidents the barber has to 
put two charmed rings on his fingers. 2 I understand that cloths are 
spread around during the hair-cutting in order that the clippings 
should not touch the ground, and these are afterwards burnt. 

It appears to me that this taboo has in times past been the most 
important of all in maintaining the mystery and air of sanctity essential 
to the preservation of the idea of Divine Kingship, and that it has also 
had much practical value in keeping the king's person safe from 
physical harm, especially the dagger of the assassin. 

2. It was taboo to look upon the face of the King. 

Mrs. Leonowens 3 tells us that even within the precincts of the 
palace the concubines would turn away their faces at the King's 
approach. Kaempfer 4 mentions that 

1 L. L., p. 102. 2 Ge. (i), p. 64 fn. 

8 The English Governess at the Siamese Court, London, 1870. 

* Kaempfer's History of Japan (1690-2), trans, by Scheuchzer, edn. of 1906, i, p. 21. 


" If one happens to chance to meet the King, or his Wives, or 
the Princess Royal in the open fields, he must prostrate himself with 
his face flat to the ground, turning his back to the Company, till they 
are out of sight." 

Until the rule was abolished by King Rama IV, it was prohibited for 
any person to watch a royal procession. Lattice fences were erected 
along the route in front of the houses of the people, and the populace 
was obliged to keep out of sight behind them. They were not even 
supposed to peep through the interstices of the fences, although such 
minor breeches of the law were winked at because they seived the 
valuable purpose of allowing the people to be impressed by the majesty 
of royalty from a safe distance. But any loiterers who were so 
unfortunate as to be caught by the lictors were summarily chastised 
with bamboos, and Europeans were usually informed well in advance, 
and advised to take a side street in order to avoid unpleasantness. 
This taboo no douot had an eminently practical value for the safety 
of a tyrannical monarch who could never be sure of the loyalty of his 
oppressed subjects, and it required a strong king who had endeared 
himself in the hearts of his people to break through this tradition. 
Another characteristic of royal processions, which may be attributed 
to the same lurking fear, and which was very evident down to recent 
times, was the hustling and disorderly appearance of the mob of 
courtiers and favourites who crowded round the royal palanquin 
during the progress. 

The taboo by which all subjects had to remain prostrate with eyes 
averted when in the king's presence may also be mentioned under this 
heading, but we shall speak of it more fully in the chapter devoted to 
Royal Audiences. 

All the variations of this taboo were common to Cambodia and 
Burma ; probably also to Ceylon, since Knox wrote in 1681 : 

" When they come before him they fall flat down on their faces 
to the ground three several times, and then they sit with their legs 
under them upon their knees all the time they are in his presence." 

The taboo was also in force in China, but it seems probable that the 
nations of Indo-China received it from India, the underlying idea 
being that no ordinary mortal could endure the glory of divine 
majesty, such idea being expressed in the following passage from 
Manu : 

" Because a king has been formed of particles of those lords of 

the gods, he therefore surpasses all created beings in lustre ; and, 

like the sun, he burns eyes and hearts ; nor can anybody on earth even 

gaze on him" l 

1 Manu, vii, 5, 6. 


Here Manu only goes so far as to compare the king to the sun. His 
predecessors probably identified the two. 

3. The King was not supposed to touch the ground. 

John Struys in the seventeenth century remarked of the king 
that " he never sets his foot upon the Earth, but is carried on a Throne 
of Gold ".! Groslier states that the same taboo prevailed in 
Cambodia 2 ; and Knox wrote that the King of Ceylon never went out 
except in procession, rarely riding on a horse or elephant, usually on 
a palanquin. We have strong evidence in the Satapatha Brdhmana 
for the derivation of the taboo from India : 

" As long as he (i.e. a king) lives, he does not stand on this (earth 
with bare feet). From the throne-seat he slips into the shoes ; and 
on shoes (he stands), whatever his vehicle may be, whether a chariot 
or anything else." 3 

The theory on which this taboo is based is that the king, being 
divine, should move in a god-like manner, and perhaps it is a relic 
of the time when the king represented the sun, for the resemblance 
between a man suspended in the air by the power of iddhi and the 
sun occurred to some Indian minds. 4 And the operation of this 
taboo must at all times have done much to strengthen the air of 
mystery surrounding the kingship. 

4. It was taboo to inquire after the King's health. 

This was because one was not allowed to presume that the King 
could be subject to the ills of the flesh as were ordinary mortals. In 
the same way it was taboo to allude directly to the death of the King, 
the term used to express this event being satec svargagata, meaning 
"to migrate to heaven". Illness and death are perhaps the greatest 
dangers that Divine Kingship had to face ; hence the enormous value 
of this taboo, the necessity of keeping the people in ignorance of the 
fact that kings have but mortal frames. As will be shown in a later 
chapter, the main functional value of the elaborate royal cremation 
ceremonies hinges upon this taboo, since their effect on the popular 
imagination is, or was, to produce the impression that the king has 
merely been translated in full regal state to a nobler plane. 

A modification in this taboo has taken place only in very recent 
times. During the last illness of King Rama V nothing was known 

1 Struys, chap, iv, p. 30. 

2 Gr., p. 337. 

8 atapatha Brahmay,a, v, 5, 3, 6, and 7, in SBE. vol. 41, p. 128. 
4 Hocart, Kingship, p. 163. 


outside the palace as to the seriousness of his condition, a contrast 
to that of the late King Rama VI, during which bulletins, which 
entered into a surprising amount of medical detail, were issued almost 

5. Taboos in connection with food. 

11 No one can enter the kitchen of the palace when the food is 
being prepared ; and a confidential officer seals the plates, and 
accompanies them to the dining room. The king alone can break 
the seal, but before eating, the officer must taste the dishes ere his 
Majesty will touch them. 1 ' l 

I was informed by the late King's chef that this taboo still remains 
in force, though in a modified form, the chef being entrusted with 
breaking the seals when the food is brought into the dining room. 
These precautions have, of course, a purely practical value, and as 
such have found favour amongst kings and rulers the world over ; 
but it appears that, quite apart from any instinct for material self- 
preservation, Siamese kings formerly respected the Indian idea of 
defilement and used leaf -platters, which are now only used in ritual. 2 
The Indian Law Givers, however, laid down very definite rules on the 
subject of the protection of kings against poison, as the following 
passage from Manu shows : 

" There he may eat food (which has been prepared) by faithful 
incorruptible (servants) who know the (proper) time (for dining), 
which has been well examined (and hallowed) by sacred texts that 
may destroy poison. Let him mix all his food with medicines (that 
are) antidotes against poison, and let him always be careful to wear 
gems which destroy poison." 3 

6. // was taboo to spill royal blood. 

When princes were executed by command of the king, as was not 
uncommon in Old Siam, and when tyrants were deposed and met a 
like fate, ordinary modes of execution were taboo. It was usual to 
beat the royal victim on the back of the neck with sandal-wood clubs 
until he was dead, tie him up in a skin sack loaded with a heavy stone, 
and throw him into the middle of the river. According to Pallegoix 4 
the fate of faithless concubines was the same, except that they were 

1 Brugui&re, " Annales dc la Propagation de la Foi," trans, in Chinese JRep., xiii, 
April, 1844. 

2 Gerini, Impl. and Asiatic Quarterly Reciew, x. 
8 Manu, vii, 217, 218. 

4 P. i, p. 271. 


not killed before being placed in the sacks, and were thus thrown into 
the river alive. 

This taboo must have had a certain indirect value with regard to 
the preservation of the kingship, for, though it concerned only a 
deposed king, a disgraced prince or concubine, nevertheless it must 
have helped to maintain respect for royal blood, or rather the blood 
of a person who had once been considered as royal, or who had been 
closely connected with royalty. But the significance of this form of 
execution, as explained by the Siamese, is Buddhist. The murder of 
any animal, even an insect, is a terrible sin in the eyes of a strict 
Buddhist, and much more so is the murder of a man ; while to kill 
a king, a Bodhisattva, under any circumstances, would make the 
most hardened Siamese criminal shudder with the mere thought of 
the infinite store of demerit which such action would bring upon the 
shoulders of the murderer. True, a deposed king is no longer a king 
especially in Siam, where, at least until very recent times, the con- 
ception of the kingship meant everything, the personality of the 
individual monarch little or nothing ; nevertheless the fact that there 
was a certain relationship between the deposed king and the kingship 
can have hardly escaped the mind of the executioner. Thus the 
method of executing royalty without actually spilling their blood seems 
to have been dictated as much by a desire to avoid possible consequences 
in a future state, as from any feelings of respect. Such a peculiar method 
of reasoning is supported by the theory that blood is the vehicle of 
life, and to let the blood escape is the most obvious method of inviting 
death ; which reminds one of the Siamese fisherman's excuse that he 
does not actually kill the fish, but merely takes them out of the water, 
after which they proceed to die of their own accord. 

7. The personal name of the King was taboo. 

The King's personal name was considered too sacred for common 
use ; and this had the effect of strengthening the conception of the 
Divine Kingship. The long string of Sanskrit and Pali titles 1 which 
were added to the King's personal name after Coronation were neither 
known nor understood by the common people ; therefore it was usual 
to refer to the King by some term signifying " Majesty ", such as 
Brah Can Yu Hua (The Lord over Our Heads), or Can Jwitra (Lord 
of Lives), and it may be mentioned here that Brah Can is also the 
term used to signify God, whether Hindu or Christian, and Buddha 
(Brah Buddha Gdu). After death, and while awaiting Cremation, the 
late King was distinguished from the reigning king as Rrah Can Yu 
1 For full style and title see p. 105. 


Hua not Pammakosa (The Lord within the Urn). This name has 
gone down to history in the case of one of the later kings of Ayudhya, 
who has since been known as King Paramakosa (A.D. 1733-68), his 
real personal name evidently not having been known to the Court 

The first three kings of the present dynasty are not known to 
have had any personal names, each one being known for some time 
after death as Brah Can Yu Hua not Paramakosa, while later they 
came to be distinguished as Brah Cau Rdjakdra di hntiii (Lord of the 
First Reign), etc. It was King Rama IV who gave them the 
posthumous Buddhist names, Brah Buddha Yot Fa, Brah Buddha 
Lo's Hla, and Brah Nan Klau, by which they are now known, and 
which signify that they were Bodhisattvas. He also was the first to 
allow the people to refer to the reigning monarch by the personal 
name, e.g. Mahamankut, Culalankaraiia, etc., but it never was nor 
has yet been accepted by the masses, who still prefer to refer to past 
kings of the dynasty by the number of the reign. King Vajiravudh 
attempted to simplify matters by instituting a method by which ail 
the kings of the dynasty should be referred to as Rama, a word which 
occurs in the royal style of every king of the dynasty, the individual 
monarchs being distinguished as Rama I-VI. This method has 
naturally been found convenient by Europeans, but the present King 
prefers to be known by his personal name, Prajadhipok. 

8. It was taboo to use words of the common language, or common modes 
of address, when speaking to or about the King and princes. 

- As in most Oriental languages, there is a complete set of words, 
or palace language (rdjasdpda), possibly resulting from a desire to 
create a special vocabulary differing from the one in common use. 
These Court words are mostly of Sanskrit origin, this language having 
been freely requisitioned in the effort to escape the vulgar ; but when 
Siamese contains a word of Thai origin and another for the same thing 
that is of Khmer origin, it is the latter which is considered the polite 
form, a fact which indicates that during the early years of Thai 
independence the Khmer was considered more proper for use at 
Court. 1 The following are the main classes of words which have a 
special Court form 2 : (a) All parts of the body, e.g. Foot, ordinary 
word dau, Court word brahpada. (b) Articles belonging to and used 
by royal persons, e.g. Clothes, common word so'a-phd, Court word 

1 Graham, Siatn, i, 277. 

2 B. 0. Cartwright, Manual of the Siamese Language, Appendix H. 


chaloh'brahanga. (c) Articles of food and drink, e.g. Tea, common 
word nam-ja, Court word brah-sudhdrasa-rdn. (d) Words expressing 
relationship, e.g. Father, common word bo, Court word brah-janaka. 
(e) Most verbs of bodily action, e.g. to eat, common word kin, Court 
word sevay ; to go or come, common word pai, ma, Court word sadec. 
(/) Names of certain animals, fish, fruit, and flowers, e.g. buffalo, 
common word gvay, Court word krahpu'd. 

The modes of address when speaking to royalty are very elaborate, 
e.g. when speaking to the king the correct pronoun of the 1st person 
is khd brah buddha can, meaning " I, the slave of the Lord Buddha " 
(i.e. the king) ; of the 2nd person, ttn fa lahon dhuli brah pdda, 
meaning " the dust beneath the sole of your august feet ", and 
signifying that the speaker does not dare to address the king himself, 
but only the dust beneath his feet. 

The palace language was once an efficient means of maintaining the 
gulf fixed between the king and his people ; an ever present reminder 
of his superiority to those who came most closely in contact with him, 
and hence were most likely to forget themselves and become familiar. 
It is still in use to-day, especially in Royal Proclamations and Official 
Notices, but the elaborate forms of address when speaking to royalty 
have lost much of their literal significance and are regarded merely 
as correct and polite forms of speech. 

9. For male Royal Children of over 13 or 14 years of age to remain in 
the palace was taboo. 

This was the case in Siam up to the reign of Rama IV, as is 
mentioned by Mrs. Leonowens. The same statement is made by 
Bruguiere 1 and Pallegoix. 2 In Campa 

" the sons, brothers, and more important officials of the king had 
no immediate access to his person. This was apparently due to fear 
of being assassinated by them." 3 

This was not, however, the only reason, and probably not even the 
main reason, at least in Siam. Far more important was the fact 
that the palace was a city of women, and no males but the King could 
be tolerated there. No doubt this taboo succeeded to some extent 
in fulfilling the objects for which it was intended, but it also engendered 
an atmosphere of suspicion, precluded that degree of filial affection 

1 Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. 
8 P. i, 270. 

3 R. C. Majumdar, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East, vol. i, Champa, 1927, 
chap. 14.' 


known to western civilization, and by banishing young princes to 
outlying provinces provided them with opportunities for rising in 

10. Taboos relating to the conduct of persons when near the palace. 

In Siam, archers, whose ammunition consisted of balls of clay, 
were so placed that they could oblige all, even nobles, to lower their 
umbrellas, and boatmen to kneel, when passing the royal palace. 1 
At Mandalay there was a rule that all must lower their umbrellas as 
soon as they came in sight of the prasada spire which surmounts the 
throne room. In Cambodia, 2 at a distance from the palace, the 
boatmen must bend over their oars, the horsemen walk, and the 
pedestrians close their umbrellas. None may enter the palace untidily 
dressed or overdressed in bright colours, or with a flower or feather 
behind the ear. Obviously this taboo had the effect not only of 
inculcating respect, but also of preventing the too close approach of 
disaffected persons. 

It will be concluded from what has been said above that these 
taboos performed two very important functions, (a) they maintained 
the air of mystery and sanctity surrounding the Divine Kingship, and 
(6) they acted in a strictly practical manner, preserving the lives of 
individual monarchs. Some of the taboos performed only one of these 
functions, but most of them combined the two. But though their 
sociological value was great, we must not take them too literally, for, 
although some of them are survivals of a very ancient conception of 
Divine Kingship, Siamese kings in the historical period probably never 
regarded them seriously except in so far as they afforded them personal 
safety and strengthened their power as rulers. Indeed, they were 
good sociologists, and they were also men of considerable common 
sense. They knew that they had romped about on the ground as 
children without any ill-effect, that they had gone barefoot during 
their term in the monastery, and, in a country where the wearing 
of shoes was not a comfort, no doubt they often did walk about with 
bare feet, at least in the palace grounds, even after ascending the 
throne. In modern times the King walks in private life as frequently 
as most people in this age of motoring, but on state occasions, except 
when following the Urn at the late king's cremation, he walks only 
on holy ground, e.g. when he has dismounted from his palanquin and 
is entering or leaving a temple. Again, in the Coronation Ceremony 

1 P. i, 269. a A. i, 59. 


the King publicly places the crown on his head with his own hands, but, 
at the conclusion of the Coronation Audience, after the curtains have 
been drawn and the King is surrounded only by his pages and 
chamberlains, he permits his attendants to relieve him of his crown, 
and in undoing the fastenings they can scarcely avoid touching 
his head. This I particularly noticed on the occasion of the Coronation 
Audience of the present King, when, being in my official uniform of 
the Chamberlain's Department, I was the only European present 
behind the curtain. The point which I wish to emphasise is, therefore, 
that it was always of the greatest importance that these taboos 
should be strictly observed in public, since it was then that they were 
of the greatest sociological value. In private life, when they were in 
danger of becoming mere useless burdens, they might, and perhaps 
always were, considerably relaxed. Even at the present day it is of 
the utmost importance that many of them should continue to be 
publicly observed since any ill-advised modifications or abolitions are 
bound to react unfavourably on the popular respect for the kingship. 
We will now endeavour to form a picture of the daily life of the 
divine monarch and for this purpose we will first make use of the 
details concerning the life of King Rama IV supplied by Mrs. Leon- 
owens 1 who was probably the only European who was ever in a position 
to obtain such information. We are not concerned with the personality 
of this King in particular, nor of any Siamese king, but only with the 
facts about his mode of life. It need only be said that not only was 
King Rama IV the last of the old school, but he was also an extremely 
learned and pious man, who had spent twenty-seven years in a 
monastery before being called to the throne. It is probable, therefore, 
that he reached more closely the ideal, somewhat difficult; of 
attainment, of what a king should be. 

Mrs. Leonowens states that the King, as well as most of the principal 
members of his household, rose at five in the morning, and immediately 
partook of a slight repast, served by the ladies who had been in 
waiting through the night ; after which, attended by them and his 
sisters and elder children, he descended and took his station on a long 
strip of matting, laid from one of the gates through all the avenues 
to another. On the king's left were ranged, first his children in the 
order of rank ; then the princesses, his sisters ; and lastly his con- 
cubines, his maids of honour, and their slaves. Before each was placed 
a large silver tray containing offerings of boiled rice, fruit, cakes, and 
the seri leaf ; some even had cigars. A little after five, the Pratoo 
Dharmina (Gate of Merit) was thrown open and the Amazons of the 
guard drawn up on either side. Then the priests entered, always 
by that gate one hundred and ninety-nine of them, escorted on the 

1 The English Governess at the Siamese. Court, 1870, Chap. xi. 


right and left by men armed with swords and clubs and after humbly 
receiving the offerings they parsed out by the other gate, Pratoo Dinn. 
After this the king and all his company repaired to the Chapel Koyal, 
where His Majesty alone ascended the steps of the altar, rang a bell 
to announce the hour of devotion, lighted the consecrated tapers, 
and offered the white lotus and the roses. Then he spent an hour in 
prayer, and in reading texts from the Prajna-paramita and the 
Pratimoksa. This service over, he retired for another nap, attended 
by a fresh detail of women those who had waited the night before 
being dismissed, not to be recalled for a month, or at least a fortnight, 
save as a peculiar mark of preference or favour to some one who had 
had the good fortune to please or amuse him ; but most of that party 
voluntarily waited upon him every day. The king usually passed 
his mornings in study. His breakfast, though a repast sufficiently 
frugal for Oriental royalty, was served with awesome forms. In 
an antechamber adjoining a noble hall, rich in grotesque carvings 
and gildings, a throng of females waited, while he sat at a long table, 
near which knelt twelve women before great silver trays laden with 
twelve varieties of viands soups, meats, game, poultry, fish, vegetables, 
cakes, jellies, preserves, sauces, fruits, and teas. Each tray, in its 
order, was passed by three ladies to the head wife or concubine, who 
removed the silver covers, and at least seemed to taste the contents 
of each dish ; and then, advancing on her knees, she set them on the 
long table before the king. At two o'clock he bestirred himself, and 
with the aid of his women bathed and anointed his person. Then 
he descended to a breakfast-chamber, where he was served with the 
most substantial meal of the day. There he chatted with his favourites 
among the wives and concubines, and caressed his children. Then 
he passed to his Hall of Audience to consider official matters. Twice 
a week at sunset he appeared at one of the gates of the palace to hear 
the complaints and petitions of the poorest of his subjects. At nine 
he retired to his private apartments whence issued immediately 
peculiar domestic bulletins, in which were named the women whose 
presence he particularly desired, in addition to those whose turn it 
' was to " wait " that night. Twice a week he held a secret council, 
or court, at midnight. 

For the life of a king of the Ayudhya period we have the following 
information concerning the habits of King Narayana : 

He always rose at 7 a.m. exactly ; his pages washed and dressed 
him and he worshipped the Buddha. After breakfast he went into 
the council chamber and stayed there until noon. He then had his 
midday meal. He was then undressed and washed and was lulled 
to sleep by music, to be awakened at 4 p.m. His reader then came 
and read history to him, sometimes for three or four hours. If he 
was in the capital [Ayudhya] he did not go out except for a walk in 
his gardens unless it was a day of state ceremonial. Sometimes ho 
visited the palace ladies and stayed with them until 8 p.m., when it 
was time to meet his counsellors again. He deliberated with them 
until midnight and then had his supper (if he had not taken it 
previously) and went to bed. When he was in residence aft his dry 


season resort Louvo [Labapuri] his reading usually ended at 5 p.m., 
and after that he went put for a ride on an elephant. He was also very 
fond of hunting tigers and elephants. 1 

Naturally a young and active king would prefer to spend a good 
deal of his time hunting, while an older and more strictly Buddhist 
monarch would give up more of his time to study ; but from the 
regularity with which both the kings above-mentioned followed a 
definite daily programme, it is not surprising to find that there is laid 
down in the KM. a time-table which kings were supposed to follow. 
The following is my translation of the passage : " At 7 a.m. 2 he 
goes to the Glorious Throne and the palace ladies attend him ; at 8 he 
partakes of food ; at 9 he goes to the place for meeting the monks 
where the palace ladies offer them royal bounty, attended by lictors ; 
at 10 he calls for food to eat and goes to sleep ; he remains inside 
until 1 p.m., when he goes for a walk. At 2 the royal ladies old and 
young enter the palace and attend upon him. At 3 the ministers of 
10,000 to 800 bakti nd grade confer with the king on matters of State. 
At 4 he goes for a walk. At 5 he goes to meet the monks. At 6 he goes 
to the inner palace to discuss internal affairs. At 7 he judges military 
matters, and at 8 he judges civil matters. At 9 he judges 
appeals. At 10 he calls for food. At 11 soothsayers (hord) and the 
royal pandits (rdjapdndita) discuss the law with him. At 12 music 
is played to him. At 1 a.m. they read history to him. At 2 or 3 he 
retires to sleep until 7 a.m." 

Now it is of great interest to find that in Ancient India kings were 
also supposed to follow regularly ordered lives, in accordance with 
rules laid down by the law-givers. Dr. Barnett, summarizing the 
evidence provided in the Kautiliya-artha-sdtitra, Mahdbhdrata, and 
other early Indian literature, gives the following time-table for the 
daily life of an Indian king : 

" The day and night were each divided into eight ndlikds (about 
1J hours). During the first ntilikd of the day, he was expected to 
examine accounts of receipts and expenditure and arrangements for 
defence ; during the second, the business or suits of his subjects ; 
during the third he bathed, dined, and studied religious texts ; in 
the fourth he received cash in payment of revenue and attended to 
the appointment of officials ; in the fifth he corresponded with his 
councillors and considered the report of secret agents ; the sixth was 
given to amusement and prayer ; in the seventh he reviewed his troops : 

1 Gervaise, The Natural and Political History of Siam (1688), Eng. trans, by H. S. 
O'Neill, 1929, part iv, chap. 4. 

8 The day was divided into twelve hours (n&lik&\. and the night into twelve 
hours (ditm). 


and in the eighth he discussed military plans with his commander- 
in-chief. In the firat nalikd of the night he received reports from 
secret agents ; in the second he bathed, supped, and studied ; in 
the third the signal was given for the royal couchee, and the fourth 
and fifth were spent in sleep ; in the sixth he arose, and prepared 
himself for the day's labour by meditation ; in the seventh he 
considered the working of his administration, and gave his orders 
to secret agents, and in the eighth he went into court after receiving 
the blessings of his priests and preceptors, consulting with his 
astrologer, physician, and head cook, and reverencing with circum- 
ambulation a cow, calf, and bull." l 

The general resemblance between the above and the rules laid 
down in the KM. is very striking, and can leave little room for doubt 
but that the latter was modelled on Indian principles. But it is all 
rather formal, and before leaving the subject I should like to 
quote what Manu has to say on the subject, for his very human 
document gives a-rather fuller picture, and indicates in certain passages 
that Indian kings were no fonder of obeying the letter of the law laid 
down for them than were many of those who ruled over Siam. Manu 
first makes it clear that the main object of the existence of kings was 
for the protection of their subjects, a fact often sadly forgotten both 
in India and Siam : 

"2. A Esatriya, who has received according to the rule the 
sacrament prescribed by the Veda, must daily protect this world. 

" 3. For, when the creatures, being without a king, through fear 
dispersed in all directions, the Lord created a king for the protection 
of this whole (creation)." 

But of course this protection was to be exercised mainly for the 
benefit of the Brahmans : 

" 79. A king shall offer various (sraitta) sacrifices at which liberal 
fees (are distributed), and in order to acquire merit, he shall give 
Brahmanas enjoyment and wealth." 

Coming then to the daily programme, he lays down as follows : 

" 145. Having risen in the last watch of the night, having performed 
(the rite of) personal purification ; having, with a collected mind, 
offered oblations in the fire, and having worshipped Brahmanas, 
he shall enter the hall of audience which must possess the marks 
(considered) auspicious (for a dwelling). 146. Tarrying there, he shall 
gratify all subjects (who come to see him by a kind reception) and 
afterwards dismiss them; having dismissed his subjects, he shall take 
council with his ministers. 147. Ascending the back of a hill or 
a terrace, (and) retiring (there) in a lonely place, or in a solitary forest, 
let him consult with them unobserved. 216. Having consulted with 
his ministers on all these (matters), having taken exercise, and having 

1 Antiquities of India, p. 98. 


bathed afterwards, the king may enter the harem at midday in order 
to dine. [Here follow the instructions for eating already quoted.] 

219. Well-tried females whose toilet and ornaments have been 
examined, shall attentively serve him with fans, water and perfumes. 

220. In like manner let him be careful about his carriages, bed, seat, 
bath, toilet, and all his ornaments. 221. When he has dined, he may 
divert himself with his wives in the harem ; but when he has diverted 
himself, he must, in due time, again think of the affairs of state. 
222. Adorned (with his robes of state), let him again inspect his 
fighting men, all his chariots and beasts of burden, the weapons, and 
accoutrements. 223. Having performed his twilight-devotions, 
let him, well armed, hear in an inner apartment the doings of those 
who make secret reports and of his spies. 224. But going to another 
secret apartment and dismissing those people, he may enter the 
harem, surrounded by female (servants), in order to dine again. 225. 
Having eaten there something for the second time, and having been 
recreated by the sound of music, let him go to rest and rise again at 
the proper time free from fatigue. 226. A king who is in good health 
must observe these rules ; but, if he is indisposed, he may entrust 
all this (business) to his servants." 1 

Making due allowance for the passing of the power of the Brahmans, 
the rise of Buddhism, and the modifications incidental to changing 
conditions generally, one cannot but be struck by the remarkable 
resemblance between the life of an ancient Indian monarch and that 
of a Siamese king, at least up to the middle of the nineteenth century. 
In all the above accounts the chief occupations of a king may be 
classified under three headings : (1) Duties to religion, especially in 
connection with the State Ceremonies, which form the main subject 
matter of the present volume ; (2) Duties to the secular government, 
especially in the matter of conferring amongst his ministers and 
granting audiences, to which a special chapter will be devoted ; 
(3) Recreation, especially in the harem. This institution was of such 
great importance that it will be necessary here to consider its history 
and functional value in some detail. 

Mrs. Leonowens has given us in her two books 2 a vivid picture 
of life in the royal harem during the reign of King Rama IV, but her 
writings are unfortunately biased by a mid- Victorian viewpoint, and 
much missionary zeal. With such an outlook the life of many individual 
members of the harem appeared full of pathos, but that this was to a 
great extent the product of her European imagination might have 
dawned on Mrs. Leonowens when she speaks of the wonderful fortitude 
with which they bore the hardships of their lives. She forgets that 
this was a time-honoured institution in the country, not only in the 

1 Mann, chap. vii. 

2 The English Governess at the Siamese Court, London, 1 870 ; The Romance of 
Siamese Harem Life, London, 1873. 


royal, but also in the noble families ; that the members of the harem 
had for the most part known no other conditions, and having but a 
very limited knowledge of the world were quite contented with their 
lot, which seemed to them the acme of royal favour. It is true that 
there was severity, even cruelty, in punishing breaches of discipline, 
but this was inevitable in the inner life of the harem where it was 
difficult to preserve much of the atmosphere of mystery surrounding 
the kingship, and only the strong hand of the man could sustain the 
dignity and power of the divine monarch. 

The harem of King "Rama IV was on a much smaller scale than 
were those of his predecessors. An interesting note as to its constitu- 
tion, based on information supplied by that king himself, was published 
in Bangkok five years before his death : 

" There have been altogether 27 royal mothers in the king's family : 
one of them had 7 children, two of them each five, another 4, two 
of them 3 each, four of them 2 each, and all the others but one each. 
His Majesty has at the present time 34 concubines. Each of these 
receives a government salary designed for the support of her own 
person, not including her children. The most that any one of them 
receives is 1200 ticals, and the least sum is 120 ticals. The aggregate 
of their salaries is 12700 ticals. Besides these 34 concubines, there 
are 74 daughters of noblemen, who have been presented to the king 
by their fathers, with the view to serve as maids of honour. These 
receive salaries from government according to their supposed individual 
merits, amounting to 6440 ticals. When any of them desire to exchange 
their situation for one out of the palace, with freedom to marry or 
otherwise, they may obtain the privilege by requesting it of the king. 
His Majesty has granted many such requests since he began his reign." l 

There were also elderly women who acted as judges in the case 
of disciplinary offences, mistresses charged with the education of the 
younger concubines, and a host of slaves and amazons of the guard. 
There were no eunuchs and no man except the king ever entered the 
small town which was reserved within the palace for the harem. In 
this preserve there were streets with shops, a garden with model 
houses, and a lake with miniature boats, all intended to be a replica of 
the outside world, and which for many of the concubines constituted 
almost their sole idea of its appearance. The concubines were known 
as Nan Ham, that is to say " Women Forbidden " (to leave the 
palace), though in the reign of King Kama IV it was possible for them 
to obtain permission to leave the palace on special occasions. It was 
then usually contrived that they could see without being seen, and 
there was a strict taboo against any man touching the body of a 

1 Bangkok Calendar for 1863, p. 38. 


concubine. Not only did a certain amount of amusement and education, 
among beautiful surroundings within the palace, make the lives of the 
concubines less burdensome, but regular business was assigned to them 
which kept them from being idle. Of course, there were petty 
jealousies and quarrels, as was only to be expected where the main 
object in life was for one to obtain the position of favourite at the 
expense of the others. Sometimes there was real affection between 
the King and his favourite concubines, but, in any case, should a 
concubine (cdu com) become the mother of a royal infant (brah anga), 
she was known as cdu com mdrta, and her position was assured. Some- 
times, indeed, a favourite attained such a position in the estimation 
of the King that she was able to sway his judgments, and became a 
powerful influence in the administration of the State ; but only after 
a favourite concubine had lived with the King for a considerable time, 
and had maintained her place in his affections, could she be elevated 
to the position of queen. An exception was made in the case of a 
lady of royal birth, who would be elevated to the queenship without 
submitting to this period of trial. There were normally four queens 
at the same time, a greater and a lesser of the right, and a greater 
and a lesser of the left, and the ceremony of their installation, which 
has some features in common with marriage, will be dealt with in 
connection with the Coronation. But there was no religious ceremony 
of marriage at any time in the life of a concubine, and really no such 
ceremony is practised by any class of Siamese. Thus Bo wring was 
right when he stated that " no religious rites accompany the marriage, 
though bonzes are invited to the feast ". 1 The tying of the wrists 
with coloured cords is not peculiar to marriage, and the feast in which 
the monks participate is a ho use warming feast, and not a marriage 
ceremony. This feast symbolizes the entry upon life in new 
surroundings, and is performed by the king and his concubines or 
queen (who may have already been " married " for years) immediately 
after the coronation at the time of the assumption of the royal residence. 
Marriage in Siam, for both prince and commoner, is a non-religious 
civil contract, and is made binding by the handing over of the bride 
by the parents and the commencement of her common life with the 
bridegroom. The signing of a register and other formalities are merely 
the recent introductions of the late king, Rama VI. 

We come now to an important consideration, that of the king's 
methods of obtaining his concubines, and in this connection will 
quote from the writings of a Siamese author of the third reign : 

1 Bowring, Siam, London, 1857, vol. i, p. 118. 


" When the king would obtain a Nan Ham (that is one inferior 
' to a queen) he does not send a delegation to request her from the 
family of a prince of equal rank with himself ; nor does he make a 
wedding for her, and erect buildings for her abode and pleasure, as 
the common people do. Sometimes he sees the girl with his own eyes, 
and sometimes another person brings him a report, that in such 
a family is a beautiful girl, whose father and mother were formerly 
connected with noble stock. [Evidently an allusion to the fact that 
titles of royalty cease at the fifth generation.] The king, if he be 
taken with the account given of her, sends a messenger to beg that 
he may be allowed to conduct her to the royal palace, tp have her 
schooled and trained, and then inaugurated as a Nan Hdm. Some- 
times the parents of a girl, thinking it would be a great good to have 
the king for a family prop as a son-in-law, are pleased to make an 
offering of their handsomest daughter, or grandchild, or niece, to 
the prince as the honourable station of a royal concubine. This 
is quite a common way or mode by which the king obtains his many 
wives. Again, another prolific source of the royal concubines, is the 
custom, when a prince has ascended the throne, and become established 
in his reign, that all his nobles and lords, even down to the khuns 
and hmfrns, present each his most beautiful daughter or niece to the 
king, for the purpose of having her serve him as a Nan Ham. In 
consequence of this custom, the royal concubines of the kings of Siani 
have ever been very numerous, numbering many hundreds, and even a 
thousand and upward to each." x 

In analysing the functional value of the harem, we must first 
realize the immense respect in which this time-honoured institution 
was held by the people in all the States affected by Indian civilization, 
-and that it was held to be one of the chief appanages of royalty 
from a very early period in history. " Can he be a king, or even a 
noble, or lord, and not have a multitude of concubines ? " inquires 
the Siamese author from whom we have already quoted, and it is 
clear from this, which until recently represented the opinion of the 
Siamese of all classes, that one of the sociological functions of the 
harem was to maintain the dignity of royalty. In the Siamese Life 
of Buddha we read : 

" Then the Sakya Princes acknowledged his wondrous skill, and 
presented their daughters to be his wives, and he was invested with 
the royal dignity, and the beautiful Yasodhara became his Queen. 
He passed his days in honour, luxury, and comfort ; no cares assailed 
him, and his beautiful Queen, and the lovely daughters of the Sakyas, 
unceasingly strove to promote his happiness." 2 

In all this one notices a strong Siamese flavour, an expression of 
the Siamese traditional opinion as to what should be the ideal of 
& king's feminine entourage. Conditions were similar in Cambodia 

1 Translated in the Bangkok Calendar for 1864, p. 69. 
8 Alabaster, The Wheel of the Law, London, 1871, p. 121. 


and no doubt represented the ideal which the early Thai kings strove 
to emulate. Cheou Ta-kouan, the Chinese who travelled in Cambodia 
in the thirteenth century A.D., remarks that the king had one chief 
wife, four for the cardinal points, and 3,000-5,000 concubines. 1 On 
the bas-reliefs of the great temple at Banteai Chhma are represented, 
amongst other scenes, kings reposing in their palaces amongst women 
of the harem. The institution was equally well developed in the 
great Hindu State of Vijayanagar in the Middle Ages ; Fernao Nuniz, 
writing about 1535, 2 noticed the large number of women in the king's 
harem, and also that women filled most posts in the palace, such as 
astrologers, musicians, wrestlers, secretaries, cooks, judges, bailiffs, 
watchmen, and amazons. But, unlike Siam and Cambodia, there 
were also eunuchs. The Laws of Manu take us a good many centuries 
further back, and the quotations above made from that source show 
us the harem as already regarded as a very important royal institution. 

We now come to another and perhaps more important function of 
the harem. We have seen that it was mainly composed of the daughters 
of noble families, and the result of this was to unite the nobility to 
the Throne by marriage, and thus to secure their loyalty. The 
concubines were practically hostages for the good behaviour of their 
families, and could spy in the king's interests into the intentions of 
their relatives. This was a two-edged sword, for a girl might be more 
loyal to her family than to the king, but as a general rule the harem 
was undoubtedly a powerful instrument for the maintenance of 
justice and internal peace in the country. The individual might 
sometimes suffer, but for the good of society as a whole the harem 
played an important role. 

One aspect of the harem remains to be dealt with : its effect on 
the efficiency of the monarch ; and whatever this might be it would 
be bound to affect the well-being of the State. It would really depend 
almost entirely on the personality of the individual king. A strong- 
minded ruler like Rama IV would realize that the harem was a sacred 
institution of his country, and would be unlikely to lapse into sensuality, 
but we know from history that such was the temptation to which 
many a weaker monarch succumbed. Such a possibility was obviously 
realized and guarded against by the ancient law-givers when they 
commanded : "He must not take delight in hunting, dice, women, 
and drinking." 3 

Before concluding this chapter it will be necessary to notice the 

1 A. iii, pp. 645 sq. 

2 Quoted in Sewell's Vijayanagar, pp. 382-3. 

8 " Institutes of Vishnu," iii, 50, in SBE. vii. 


changes in the conception of the kingship and the life and duties of 
the King that have been brought about by contact with western 
civilization during the last few decades. As would be expected from 
the fact that the present King was educated in Europe, his tastes 
are largely European, and his private life that of any modern European 
monarch, in fact practically that of any ordinary English gentleman. 
This also applied to the late King Rama VI, and the example set by 
these two modern Kings has been followed by the younger generation 
of the nobility, and we now have a growing upper class in Bangkok 
educated on European lines, some of whose members, however, have 
not been so successful as their royal leaders in knowing what to adopt 
from western culture and what to discard as unsuitable. In my opinion, 
however, this change has not as yet had any great effect on the masses, 
since, whenever the King shows himself to the people on great state 
occasions, he stjll appears in procession, riding on a palanquin, 
surrounded by all the traditional accompaniments of majesty, and 
this is the picture which still remains indelibly impressed on the minds 
of the vast majority of his subjects. However, a reform of far-reaching 
importance which has undoubtedly adversely affected the kingship 
in the popular opinion, was the abolition of the harem, for this, as 
we have seen, was far more than an institution of the King's private 
life. The harem served its purpose as a means of maintaining peace 
and order in Old Siam, but with the centralization of the government, 
and the improvement of communications, it became an anachronism. 
Nevertheless, the reform is not yet complete, and the masses of the 
people have not yet been educated up to accepting it. Part of the 
honeycombed city of women still stands within the walls of the Grand 
Palace, and there still reside a few old ladies, survivors of King 
Kama V's harem, with two or three old amazons to guard them from 
intrusion, though, of course, they are perfectly free to go and come 
as they please ; and, among the older generation of the nobility, the 
harem still flourishes, though modified by the fact that women of the 
upper class have now more education and freedom. Indeed, when 
King Kama VI attempted to introduce compulsory monogamy and 
the registration of marriages, he was met by so much passive resistance 
that he wisely decided not to proceed with the measure. He himself 
remained entirely celibate until the last year of his life, and his only 
offspring was a daughter born two days before his death. King 
Prajadhipok, though married in 1917, is still childless, and this state 
of affairs, being so contrary to Siamese royal tradition, is a matter of 
deep concern to his subjects. Indeed, it might not be too much to 
say that the abolition of the harem is by far the greatest blow that 


has so far been struck at the traditional conception of the Siamese 
monarchy. I do not wish, however, to lay undue weight on this 
unfortunate fact, nor to conclude this chapter on a depressing note, 
and I therefore desire to emphasize that the present King carries 
out his other traditional duties with truly remarkable zeal. Despite 
the increased complexity of the government and the fact that details 
must often be worked out by subordinates, the King still closely 
supervises his ministers, and holds frequent cabinet meetings ; while 
in the sphere of religion no king could be more meticulous in carrying 
out his somewhat arduous duties. 


This will be a convenient place to mention a remarkable office, 
that of the Mahd Ugardja or Van Nd, commonly known to Europeans 
as Second King, an office which demands our consideration because 
the individual who held it was invested with some of the appurtenances 
of kingship. He was primarily a general who held command of the 
vanguard, while the Van Hldn, the third most important personage 
in the realm but vastly inferior in status to the Van Nd, was the 
commander of the rearguard. The Mahd Ugardja became the chief 
councillor of the King, and was usually his eldest son. It has frequently 
been wrongly stated by European writers that the Second King was 
the brother of the King, but this was only the case when the King's 
sons were minors. He was, in fact, the Crown Prince. He was entitled 
to an umbrella of five tiers, had a splendid palace l and court of his 
own, and almost unlimited access to the treasury. His coronation, 
called upardjdbhiseka and corresponding to the yauvardjdbhiseka of 
Epic India, was in most respects a copy, on a smaller scale, of that of 
the King; but the latter performed an important part in it, and 
himself handed the regalia to the Ugardja. Formerly the Van Na 
did not receive a ceremonial bath at his coronation, nor was there a 
Liap Mo'ah, or state progress around the walled city ; but this was 
inaugurated by Rama IV out of affection and respect for his brother, 
Brah Bin Klau, the Van Nd of the fourth reign. 2 

Some interesting information about the Mahd Upardja in the 
seventeenth century is given by La Loubere, 3 who regarded him as a 
Viceroy who represented the King and performed the King's functions 
during his absence, as, for example, when he was at war. He noticed 

1 The palace of the Uparaja at Bangkok is now the National Museum. 
8 Siam Repository, Oct., 1871. 
* 8 L. L., p. 95. 


that he was the only officer who had the right of sitting in the King's 
presence. Though it is probable that the office existed in the Sukho- 
daya period, the earliest specific mention of it in Siamese history is 
in 1484, but it is also referred to in the Sakti Nd Law of 1454, where it 
is stated that the Van Na held 40,000 acres of land, ten times as much 
as the highest officials. 1 The title was common in all the States of 
Indo-China, including Burma, and is mentioned in the Mahdvamsa. 
It originated in India, many examples of the anointing of an heir- 
apparent being known from Indian literature. 2 

It is easy to understand the functional value of such an office as 
that of the M aha Upardja in a State governed by an absolute monarch. 
The position of an Oriental despot must often have been one of almost 
insuperable difficulty ; and the moral support of one on whom the 
King could rely for an opinion unbiased by flattery or self-seeking, 
and with whom he could converse on something approaching an equal 
footing, must, in a country where the highest official was but as dust, 
have been not only a great personal comfort to the King, but also a 
valuable aid to the stability ( of the government. Then again, the 
King could send the Van Nd on military expeditions with perfect 
confidence, and when himself absent could leave the Second King 
in the capital to discharge the affairs of State. Bruguiere states that 
the Van Nd remained in the Supreme King's palace, sword in hand, 
to guard it when he was out. 3 The value pf this can be well appreciated 
in a country where a King could never be certain that on his return 
from a state progress he would not find an usurper enthroned in his 
place. It is remarkable that throughout Siamese history the Upardja 
and the King always seem to have remained on such perfect terms of 
amity. One may attribute this not only to the careful selection exercised 
by the King in his choice, but also to the fact that the Van Na, enjoying 
as he did such a vast measure of power and wealth, would scarcely be 
likely to think it worth while to risk his all by aiming at the supreme 

The office of MaM Upardja was abolished by King Kama V on 
the death of the Second King of the fifth reign. With the greater 
trust that he was able to place on his loyal and better educated 
ministers who were deeply attached to him by ties of personal affection, 
and with his desire to model his administration on the methods of 
western government, he naturally saw that no ends could be served 
by retaining the institution. 

1 Wood, History of Siam, p. 92. 

2 ERE. i, p. 20. 

3 " Annales de la Propagation de la Foi," trans, in Chinese Hep. xiii, April, 1844. 



We will begin our study of the Siamese Court Brahmans by 
considering them as they are to-day. They are a small body of men 
whose duties lie mainly in connection with those Ceremonies of State 
that are not wholly Buddhist. One can discern in their features a 
trace of Indian Brahman blood but, since no female Brahmans ever 
accompanied them from India, they intermarried with the people of 
the country, and so this trace of Indian blood is now but slight. They 
wear their hair long, in the form of a chignon, and on ceremonial 
occasions don the Brahmanic cord and wear white (a Siamese lower 
garment, called phd-nuh, together with a white jacket, embroidered 
with silver flowers in the case of the head -priest). They represent two 
sects, the Vaisnavas (Brahmana Brdhipasa) and Saivas (Brahmana 
Bidhl), but they have in Bangkok three temples in one enclosure, the 
larger one (that on the south) being dedicated to Isvara (&va), the 
middle one to Ganes*a, and the northern one to Narayana (Visnu), 
the houses in which the Brahmans live being in the vicinity. The 
temples are rectangular buildings with Siamese roofs, and with the 
insides of the walls plainly whitewashed. At the western ends of each 
of the temples there stands an altar, while in the middle of the &va 
and Visnu temples there stand two upright posts to which a small 
swing-seat is suspended on certain ceremonial occasions. The altar in 
the Siva temple (PL I) is the most elaborate, and supports a number of 
interesting bronze images of Siva and Uma, sheltered beneath a white 
canopy, from the four corners of which depend white lace curtains. 
In front of the altar are several stands for flowers and other offerings , 
to the right and left of which are situated gilded figures of Siva astride 
the sacred bull Nandi. Formerly some images of Harihara were 
enshrined within this temple, but they have now been removed to the 
National Museum. Some of the other images were probably brought 

1 As stated in Chapter I, the Buddhist monks now play a very important part 
in most of the great State Ceremonies, but this is usually in connection with those 
modifications and additions which have mostly been introduced in later times. The 
duties of the monks on these occasions consist mainly in the recitation of texts from 
the scriptures, the study of which could net be adequately dealt with in the present 
work. I therefore refrain from devoting a special chapter to the consideration of the 
Siamese Buddhist monks, but shall have something to say as to such rites as they 
do perform when suitable occasions arise in the body of the work. 

















over from India, but these images of Harihara are certainly the most 
interesting and the most important historically, because they are 
definitely of Cola period, i.e. they date from about the tenth century 
A.D. 0n the altar in the middle temple are some large images of 
Ganesa, while in the northern temple there is a statue of Visnu, flanked 
by two modern figures of his saJcti. 

The Court Brahmans speak only Siamese, and do not understand 
Sanskrit, but they have corrupt Sanskrit texts usually written in an 
Indian character (PL II), which some of them are able to read. They 
have also one hymn in Tamil, written in an Indian character, but this 
language they likewise do not understand. It is known, however, 
that in the Ayudhya period, there were Brahmans who did understand 
these Indian languages. The texts which the Siamese Brahmans now 
possess are the Sanskrit and Tamil mantras (hymns) with instructions 
in Siamese for the preliminary rites intended to be used in daily 
worship, and as an introduction to the more important ceremonies. 
A few decades ago they had other manuscripts which gave instructions 
for all the State Ceremonies, but these were carried off by a certain 
family of Brahmans who left the royal service. This family was headed 
by the then head priest, whose name I am told was Urn. An attempt 
was made during his lifetime to recover the books, and to this end his 
mother was caught and imprisoned. In order to secure her release, 
the manuscripts of which the National Library has copies (i.e. those 
dealing with the preliminary rites) were returned ; but the others, 
although almost certainly still in existence, cannot be recovered 
because the Government does not nowadays like to cause a 
commotion by attempting to obtain them by force. The Brahmans 
now use those books that were returned to them for all purposes, and 
since they do not understand Sanskrit they mumble both instructions 
and mantras indiscriminately. There is now no daily worship in the 
temples, and the Brahmans perform the State Ceremonies without 
the aid of written instructions since they or their fathers have seen 
the rites performed in the days when the other books were extant. 
Fortunately, King Rama V had access to these treatises, and made 
use of them in compiling the BRB. Alabaster, who also must have 
had access to a larger range of Brahmanical literature than we have 
to-day, remarks that there are frequent references to, and (supposed) 
quotations from the three Vedas (Trai Beda) and the sdstras. They 
reject the Atharvz Veda as did Manu. 1 

I am indebted to Mr. P. S. Sastrl, the Indian Sanskrit scholar on 
the staff of the Royal Institute at Bangkok, for the appended list 2 of 
1 The Wheel of the Law, p. 176. 2 See p 63. 


the Brahmanical MSS. in the possession of the National Library. As 
already stated, they refer only to the preliminary rites, now used for 
all State Ceremonies, the instructions being in Siamese, the mantras 
in corrupt Sanskrit, written usually in the Indian character, but 
sometimes in Siamese. The only Tamil mantra is the " Opening 
the portals of Kailasa ", which is written in the Indian character. 
There are also yantra diagrams (Pis. IV and V) for use in connection 
with the ritual, as will be mentioned in later chapters. 

I have shown specimens of the Indian script, in which most of the 
mantras are written, to Dr. L. D. Barnett, who is of opinion that 
they are Pancjyan, and may be ascribed to a period not later than the 
middle of the thirteenth century A.D. These have not yet been 
transliterated, but I here give two examples of the corrupt Sanskrit 
mantras which were written in Siamese characters, and which I have 
transcribed in Roman characters as follows : 

/. Yak utup pot hyai, kldh 1 

II AhvdnnafigaJisuvdnnaJigdnnahgdnnd vicavicarahnam gahtdgahtd- 
mahhahvdn ndmamiitatimutatitdm salirahnigahtiturosahrahnigahti- 
tdm mahldm sahrahnivahnituniydmbhdkgd hahriomavijaivijaiyahmdde 
mahJidkraildt pahtinahhdkraildkgahndkhoe pahtinikgahndsdnndkgah- 
ndrdyayah pa^riyahmdrahdopahti. Ydmmali supahrigahgdntumapahri- 
dahrdnto dahyebhahkumgahribhahkum pahritapittdnydneydnesdttrund sd- 

Idmbunadahretnetteracdtuvahtera sahjinlahmdvasinteravahtera muddtta - 
rdtdahrahmdtdaJtgumdsdn sdddhdtera dabrahmdtasdttruvindtasdhndm 
mahhdriomasahvdttindtagahtindta porammahrdkhdpahtipdtdpah." 

II. Yak utup saJithdn brah ndrdyana 2 

4 ' SukahrikaJirahd'ugdndosutcdsutcd mikkahrahpahtdmprahsdmbhd- 
grahbkdldm prahsdmbhddirorakydksdkprahbhammciJiyak mahUkkahtd- 
nusddocdnmoddahkotdivdso mahnatjotgahtojogahtd nekgahndndcdnmah- 
dahkotdahvddivd mahnahjotgafadhingaJiherd dirdmodivisiddhiyd pahrah- 
nikumpahrahnikhdnsdttahtiddnbun pahrahnigahsahrdnnisahneb bhah- 
lahcdnlahdolahddn %ahrind,mdndahldbhiribramamdr ndkkhdnndkurd- 
sahvdvisahvdsasu sunahgirislsdttahlahsdttahnaiyahne hahriombrammd- 
ratahvilailahthipdtahparamardjd. ' ' 

1 This Siamese title means " Making offerings in the large (Siva) and middle 
(GaneSa) temples". 

2 This Siamese title means " Making offerings in the Visnu temple ". 


rapfwd froitt ft ,!!>? M. 
by ifintl jn>nnitiioH 

W/>? in thi* Xitfwtmf Library, 
<>f Ji ft 11 Prince l>tnn>n\i 


1, Yatifrn representing the stove used in the luwm riles (see p. 72). 

2, Yantrft representing the mouiut used in the 4 Kal.itikeyti Pestival (wee p. 29O), 
8. Yfiutrn represent ing fniichti-yiiryn (see p, 25*J), 

(To face pay? 50. 


e if ft'ft 

rripl in t/ir Xnrtj 

o/ //,/!',//, Prut 

tl Libwtry, 

Y A NT If A 

1. Frtwlfrt rc v proHonting iho nliu* planetary deities. 

2. Yanlra iiiHt-rlhtwl on the stone mortar (nee p. 252). 
8* Yanira placed in tho ilvor wattT-poi (see p, 252). 


It will be noticed that the above mantras retain traces of metrical 
composition, and here and there we can trace perfectly correct 
Sanskrit words, e.g. paramardjd, which concludes the second mantra. 

It has already been remarked that most of the State Ceremonies 
show a blending of the two religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, which 
was intensified in the reigns of such staunch Buddhist kings as Dran 
Dharma (1610-28), and Rama IV (1851-68), and it is not surprising, 
therefore, to find that the Court Brahmans are also Buddhists, and 
that before they can undergo the ceremony of initiation and wear the 
Brahman girdle, they must pass through the novitiate as Buddhist 
monks, and it is also this fact that they are Buddhists as well as 
Hindus that prevents them from carrying out any animal sacrifices 
m connection with their rites. 

The ceremony of initiation to the Brahman priesthood is still 
performed, being known as Pvaj Brat. It consists of two stages, the 
first of taking the cord of three strings, and the second of taking the 
cord of six strings. I have had no opportunity of witnessing the 
ceremony, but was able to photograph in its entirety the manuscript 
which purports to deal with the subject. 

The following is a mention of the ceremony of Pvaj Brat in Siamese 
history of the Ayudhya period : 

" In 912 Chulasakarat [A.D. 1530], the year of the dog, on the 
second of the waxing of the eighth month, the King Somdet Phra 
Mahachakrapan had the ceremony of Pathamakamma (inauguration 
of Brahmans) performed at the place Tha Deng. Phra Karmavaca 
was teacher of unauspicious lore [sic]', Phra Bijettha was teacher of 
the eight requirements ; Phra Indra was judge. In 915 [A.D. 1533], 
the year of the bull, in the seventh month, the Majjhimakamma 
fsecond step in the inauguration of Brahmans) was performed at 
Jainadburi." 1 

The only other places where Brahmanism is still found in Siam 
are Nagara Sri Dharmaraja and Batahlun in the Peninsula, where 
temples of the kind above described still exist ; but in times past there 
were Brahman temples in the ancient capitals and in the main 
provincial centres. This brings us to a point where we must consider 
the history of Brahmanism in Siam in order to understand its function 
at the present day and the low estate to which it has fallen. 

In India we know that the Brahmans early achieved ascendancy 
over the other three castes, that they were the repository of all Hindu 
learning, and that by this means, although they never attempted 
openly to take over the business of temporal government, they made 
themselves to be considered as indispensable to the ruling caste, the 
1 " Baiisavahtara of Hlvan Prasocth," in JSS. t vol. vi, pt. 3 (1909). * 


Ksatriyas. " Let the king in all matters listen to the advice of his 
astrologers " ordain the Institutes of Visnu l ; and Manu prescribes 
as follows : 

" 78. Let him appoint a domestic priest (purohita) and choose 
officiating priests (ritvig) ; they shall perform his domestic rites and 
sacrifices for which three fires are required. 79. A king shall offer 
various (srauta) sacrifices at which liberal fees (are distributed), 
and in order to acquire merit he shall give to Brahmanas enjoyment 
and wealth." 2 

In the last sentence we notice the emphatic injunction that the 
officiating Brahmans must be liberally rewarded ; this is characteristic 
of the Brahmans, who never gave their services for nothing. But in 
order to make it quite clear that it was not derogatory to their 
dignity for them to accept such payment, it was necessary for them to 
admit the divinity of the king. Hence we have the statement from 
Narada that, 

" those who being acquainted with the divine nature of a king, endowed 
with majestic dignity as he is, accept gifts from him, do not in the 
least disgrace themselves (by doing so)." 

But, despite this, no doubt is to be entertained as to the relative 
positions of the King and the Brahman in the scale of holiness : 

" In this world there are eight sacred objects : a Brahman, a cow, 
fire, gold, clarified butter, the sun, the waters, and a king as the eighth. 
These one must always look up to, worship and honour them personally, 
and turn the right side towards them, in order that one's existence 
may be prolonged." 3 

The Brahman and the King are, in fact, both offshoots of the same 
primitive idea, the divinity of the chief. Sometimes the one and 
sometimes the other obtained the ascendancy, and hence we have to 
coin the terms priest-king and king-priest. Of the former we shall 
see many examples in the priestly functions of the King of Siam, for 
the latter we have to turn to Ancient India, or at least to Ancient 
Cambodia, where the Brahmans were strong enough to interfere with 
the temporal government. There were ceremonies of consecration for 
both kings and priests, but whereas the king identified himself with 
Indra, the Brahman was Brihaspati, the purohita of the gods. 4 

The ascendant position attained by the Brahmans in India was 
for some time maintained by those who ventured overseas and settled 
in the States colonized by Indians in Indo-China. In Cambodia the 

1 Hi, 75, in SBE., vol. vii. 2 Manu, chap. vii. 

3 Narada, xviii, 53-5, in SBE. xxxiii (Minor Law Books). 

4 Hocart, Kingship, London, 1927, chap. x. 


Brahmans for many centuries maintained a powerful hierarchy. 
They were the only one of the four castes that was really organized, 
this caste having taken form in the fifth century and been constantly 
augmented by immigrants from India. 1 In the days when Yasovarman 
was king (acceded A.D. 889), Saivism was predominant, and we learn 
from the following inscription that the Brahmans still enjoyed a 
position similar to that which was theirs in India : 

" This king, well- versed (in kingly duties), performed the Koti- 
homa and the Yajnas (Vedic sacrifices), for which he gave the priests 
magnificent presents of jewels, gold, etc." 2 

The cult of the Royal God, though founded by Jayavarman II 
(A.D. 802), did not reach the height of its development until some 
two centuries afterwards, and was especially associated with 
Vaisnavism and the temple of Ankor Vat. This cult led to the 
Brahmans enjoying an even more exalted position. The Cambodian 
hierarchy was established by Jayavarman II, and the priesthood 
became hereditary in the family of ivakaivalya, who enjoyed immense 
power ; indeed, this sacerdotal dynasty almost threw the royal 
dynasty into the shade. 3 Brahmans were depicted on the reliefs of 
Ankor Vat and Coedes has identified Drona and Visvamitra amongst 
them. 4 In one of the reliefs which illustrates a royal procession, it is 
interesting to note that the Brahmans are the only onlookers who do 
not prostrate themselves before the king, as was also the case in 
India. 5 This is very different from the rule in later times in Siam, 
for their proximity to the King's person and their dependence on his 
protection made them the most subservient members of his Court, 
and, in modern ceremonial they still prostrate themselves as in Old 
Siam. Another point of interest that we learn from the reliefs of 
Ankor Vat and Ankor Thorn is that not. only the Brahmans, but also 
the aristocracy wore the chignon, the lower classes having short hair. 6 

One very remarkable sign of the power of the Brahmans during 
the Ankor period is that, contrary to the modern custom, by which 
princesses of the royal blood rarely marry, formerly alliances were 
common with the Brahmans 7 ; and up to the present day there 
is a tradition amongst the Bakus, who are the descendants of the 
ancient Brahmans, that in the event of the royal line failing, a successor 
would be chosen from amongst them. 8 

A. iii, p. 548. 2 C., p. 114. 3 C., p. 80 sq. 

Coedes, Les Bax Reliefs d' Angkor Vat, Paris, 1911, plates xii and xiu. 
Delaporte, " Cortege Royal chez les Khmers," Revue de Qeog., 1878. 
Gr., p. 58. 7 A. iii, p. 531. 

Aymonier, Histoire de L'ancien Cambodge, 1920, p. 178. 


As early as the reign of Jayavarman V (A.D. 968) we find evidence 
of the admixture of Mahayana Buddhism with the cult of the Royal God. 

" The purohita should be versed in Buddhist learning and rites. 
He should bathe on the days of the festivals the image of the Buddha 
and should recite Buddhist prayers/' l 

And the rites and duties of the purohitas remained a mixture of 
Hinduism and Mahayanism until the introduction of Pali Buddhism 
in the thirteenth century, 2 after which this powerful sacerdotal caste 
degenerated with their religion to the position occupied by the modern 
Bakus. 3 But the Brahmans of Cambodia perhaps never sank so low 
as did those of Campa, where " In the Po Nagar Inscription (No. 30) 
we read that the king's feet were worshipped, even by Brahmanas 
and priests ". 4 

Though the Thai were Buddhists, their kings surrounded them- 
selves with the appurtenances of Khmer royalty, and recruited their 
Court Brahmans from Cambodia. For centuries, indeed, Brahmanism 
enjoyed quite an important position ; for although Buddhism was the 
religion of the people, and was protected by the kings, Hinduism was 
still considered as essential to the monarchy, and so received a great 
share of royal favour. The famous inscription (about A.D. 1361) of 
King Dharmaraja I mentions the king's knowledge of the Vedas and 
of astronomy 5 ; while the inscription on the Siva statue found at 
Kamben Bejra records the desire of King Dharmasokaraja to exalt 
both Hinduism and Buddhism. And this is as late as A.D. 1510. 6 

During the Ayudhya period, as has already been mentioned in 
Chapter II, Court Brahmans were recruited from time to time, both 
from Cambodia and from the Peninsula (gaivas). With the final 
destruction of Ayudhya in 1767, those Brahmans who had escaped the 
clutches of the Burmese fled to Nagara Sri Dharmaraja, whence King 
Tak, on the re-establishment of the kingdom, recalled them, and 
endeavoured to collect all that had survived of their ceremonial lore, 
a difficult task, since many of their books had been destroyed by fire 
at the fall of Ayudhya. But very few of the Court Brahmans who had 
officiated at Ayudhya survived, the tradition was broken, and most 
of those who took service at the Court of Bangkok were the descendants 
of comparatively recent arrivals. Thus, in comparing the Brahmans 
of Bangkok with those at Phnompenh, the modern capital of Cambodia, 
Aymonier rightly says : 

J C., p. 163. a A. iii, p. 591. A. iii, p. 614. 

4 R. C. Majumdar, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East, vol. i, Champa, 1927, 
chap. 14. 

6 Coeds, Les Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, 1924, p. 98. Ibid., p. 159. 


" Unlike the Brahmans of Cambodia the Siamese Brahmans are 
not relics of a once powerful religious caste, but have been brought in 
later (from Ligor 1 and elsewhere) to conduct the court ceremonies 
in imitation of other courts with an Indian ceremonial." 2 

Thus it is that we cannot expect to obtain much information 
concerning the history and significance of the State Ceremonies from 
that somewhat indolent and unintelligent body of men, the modern 
Court Brahmans of Bangkok. Nevertheless, though they are so 
ignorant, we owe them a certain amount of respect for what they 
represent, and, had they any pride in the tradition of their forefathers, 
the Siamese Brahmans might take comfort in the words of Mann: 
" Ignorant or learned the Brahman is a great deity ; just as Fire is 
a great deity whether used sacrificially or not." 

Since the tendency after the foundation of the present Siamese 
capital has continued to be in the direction of the exaltation of 
Buddhism at the expense of the older religion, many of the purely 
Hindu ceremonies were discontinued after the fall of Ayudhya, with 
consequent diminution in the importance of the Brahmans. But the 
status of the priests during the Bangkok period itself seems to have 
changed little ; indeed, this would scarcely be possible, short of their 
complete abolition, and our earliest account of the Bangkok Brahmans, 
that of Crawfurd, who visited Siam on an embassy in 1821, might almost 
apply to the present day. One of the Brahmans informed Crawfurd 
that he was 

" the fifth in descent from his ancestor who had first settled in Siam, 
and who, according to his statement, came from the sacred Island 
of Ramiseram, between Ceylon and the Main." 3 

At the present day some of the Brahmans have a tradition that their 
ancestors came from Benares, and it is quite possible that both these 
accounts are true, and that there are now in Bangkok descendants of 
Brahmans from both North and South India. In any case such 
traditions are certainly interesting as evidence of late immigration 
from India, whereas the modern Bakus of Cambodia have lost all 
tradition of such immigration. At least the head priest at Phnompenh 
recently informed Prince Damrong quite seriously that his ancestor 
came from Mount Kailasa (the traditional home of Siva) ! 

The duties of the Brahmans of ancient India may be classified 
under three headings : (1) Those of chief chaplain (purohita) to the 
king, a post held by the head priest ; (2) those of the astrologers or 

1 Nagara Sri Dharmaraja. 2 A. ii, p. 32. 

3 Crawfurd, Embassy to Siam, London, 1828, p. 119. 


soothsayers (hord) ; and (3) those of the officiating priests (ritvig). 
No doubt at an early period in Siam, as well as in Cambodia, the office 
of purdhita was held by a Brahman, but this was not the case during 
the Bangkok period, since the Brahmans had no longer any power. 
Under the old regime, however, that is to say prior to the modernization 
of the government, there was an office of purohita, but I understand 
that it was held by a non-Brahman. On the other hand, the 
prognostications of the astrologers were considered to be of the greatest 
importance before contact with western science in the nineteenth 
century undermined the king's credulity. Siamese history of the 
Ayudhya period contains frequent mention of various supernatural 
omens which had to be interpreted by the Brahmans ; and no king 
would have thought of embarking on any important undertaking such 
as a military expedition without making sure that his soothsayers 
considered the day and hour propitious. At the time of the accession 
of the late king and even of the present one good omens such as 
the advent of a white elephant were eagerly looked for, while in one 
State Ceremony at least, the First Ploughing, soothsaying still exists 
in its ancient form. But these features have been retained on account 
of their popularity with the uneducated masses ; and one cannot 
imagine a modern Siamese king seriously consulting his Brahmans. 
Indeed, the rather complicated work of calendar-making and fixing 
the auspicious dates for the State Ceremonies is really quite beyond the 
capabilities of the modern Brahmans, and so this duty is now performed 
by a non-Brahman official who holds the office of royal astrologer 
(one only), and is known as Brahyd fiord. One cannot help remarking 
how convenient his appointed times usually are, and, in fixing a 
propitious date for the King's recent visit to America, one might hazard 
a guess that he took the steamship schedules into consideration ! 

The office of purohita having long ago been abolished, and that of 
astrologer having passed into non-Brahman hands, there remain to 
the present Siamese Brahmans only the duties of officiating priests to 
be performed. It is obvious that so long as State Ceremonial retains 
its present form a corps of Court Brahmans will remain essential, and, 
in making it possible for the King to continue to maintain the pomp 
and dignity inseparable from absolute monarchy, these priests still 
perform a very important function for the benefit of the society as 
a whole. 



Vol. A. " The Worship of the Eight Directions." 

" Ja Klom Hansa." 

"' Khap Mulagni Yaksa." 

u Opening of the portals of Kailasa " (" Po't brahtu Sivalaj "). 
Vol. B. " Puja klan." 

" Panca gavya." 

" Vastu puja." 

" Kalasa puja." 

tk Kumbha puja." 

" Rajahamsa puja." 

" Mahagaiiapati pujii." 

" Consecrating the water of allegiance " (" Jon n^m brah 

bibardha sacca "). 
Vol. C. " Hamsa Puja." 

4t Navagraha puja." 

" Homakunda." 

u Nlrajana piija." 

44 Hanuman m.intra." 

" Prajya puja." 
Vol. D. " Brah avisut." 

" Puja murai." 

" Pvaj brat." 

" Closing the portals of Kailasa " ( t{ Pit brahtu ^ivalai"). 
Vol. E. tk Inviting the gods " (Anjo'fi brah dan pvan). 

tk Worship of Brah Yarnbhu " (- Hvw brah yambhu "). 

fct W 7 orship of Siva, Uma, and Vinayaka." 

" Candra Namaskara.' 5 

"Veda" ("Veda tin tin"). 

Vol. F. " Festival of Elephants " ( 4 - Gusati sanveyalc loin jan "). 
Vol. G. " Raising the Utup " (" Yak Utup "). 

" OfEering flowers at the three temples " (" Thavay dok 
mai poth hyai poth klan le sahthan brah narayana "). 

Most of the names of the mantras are Siamese, and hence are not 
the original ones ; they have, in fact, often been changed, so it is 
difficult to identify them with those used by King Rama V in BRB. 





1. The Succession. 

The Succession to the Throne of Siam is, in theory, regulated by 
the law of A.D. 1360, according to which the eldest son of the queen 
shall have precedence over all other members of the royal family. 2 
Owing to the frequency of its violation throughout Siamese history 
resulting from usurpation by a powerful noble or the outcome of a 
struggle for supremacy amongst the surviving sons of a king, the 
student of Siamese history might hardly suspect the existence of 
such a law. Again, when the heir apparent was of tender years, it 
was frequently found necessary to put a stronger man at the head of 
affairs, and it was then the king's brother that became Heir 
Presumptive (Van No). Such was the condition at the end of the 
seventeenth century which misled Kaempfer into supposing that 

" By virtue of the ancient laws of Siam, upon the demise of the 
King, the crown devolves on his brother and upon the brother's death, 
or if there be none, on the eldest son.'* 3 

1 The following aro the chief Siamese sources for the study of the Coronation, 
and have been of the greatest value to me in the preparation of this and the following 
two chapters : 

(1) " Ray kara labial brafr raja bidhl paramarajabhiseka chalo'm brah raja mandira 
(brah pada samtec brah paramindra mafia prahjadhipak brah pak klau cau yu hua) 

e sadec liap brah nagara." (Programme of the Coronation, Assumption of the Boyal 
Residence, and State Progresses of H.M. King Prajadhipok.) Bangkok, B.E. 2468 
(A.D. 1926). 

(2) "The Coronation of His Majesty Prajadhipok, King of Siam, B.E. 2468," 
being extracts from the above translated into English with commentary ; together 
with notes on the Installation of the Queen, by H.H. Prince Dhani Nivat. 

(3) "Kathmay hetu brah raja bidhi paramarajabhiseka samtec brah ramadhipati 
srisindra maha vajiravudh brah mankut klau cau yu hua." (Record of the Coronation 
of King Vajiravudh.) Bangkok, B.E. 2466 (A.D. 1924). 

(4) "Brah raja bahsavahtara kruh rdtanakosindra rajakal dl sbn." (History of 
the Second Reign of the Bangkok Dynasty), by H.R.H. Prince Damrong, Bangkok, 
B.E. 2459 (A.D. 1917). 

To which I may add that I was fortunate in being present in Bangkok at the time 
of the Coronation of King Prajadhipok, and witnessed most of the more public parts 
of the ceremony. 

* JSS., vol. vi (1909), pt. 3, p. 5. 

8 Kaempfer, History of Japan, edn. of 1906, i, p. 36. * 



In the Bangkok period, the succession has gone more in accordance 
with the law, five of the seven monarchs having succeeded their fathers. 
Of the other two, one, King Rama III, was successful in depriving his 
elder brother of his rights, but the latter ruled after his death as 
Rama IV ; while the present King succeeded by reason of the fact 
that his elder brother (Rama VI) died without male offspring. The 
Court Circular for 25th November, 1926, the date of the death of the 
late King, made known the accession in the following words: 

"His Royal Highness the Prince Prajadhipok of Sukhodaya 
succeeded to the throne in accordance with His late Majesty's 
commands as confirmed by a meeting of the Royal Family and the 
Cabinet in special joint session last night." 

Thereupon the new King, in accordance with custom, left his own 
palace and took up his residence in the Grand Palace, though not as yet 
in the State Apartments. 

It has been remarked above that the law prescribes that the 
successor shall be the eldest son of the queen (of the principal queen, if 
there be more than one), not simply the eldest son of the king. At 
first sight this certainly suggests the existence of a system of matriarchy, 
but, whatever may have been the case in the remote past, there is no 
evidence for such a system having been recognized during the historical 
period. The recognition of matriarchy is quite incompatible with a 
social system in which, at least by the upper classes, women are 
considered as being of no account other than as the chattels of their 
lords. It is true that kings sometimes married their half-sisters, but 
there was no obligation for them to do so, and indeed, they rather 
preferred not to do so because of the greater deference with 
which they had to treat such a queen. They chose whom they liked 
from among their concubines for promotion to queenship ; the queen 
owed her position solely to the king's favouritism ; and it entirely 
depended on the king's choice whether the successor was the son of 
a sister or merely the son of a promoted concubine. Again, kings often 
installed their predecessor's wives in their own harem. This has been 
regarded as a sign of matriarchy, but in Siam it appears in historical 
times to be due to the fact that any alternative would be fraught with 
danger to the king's position. 

It is important to note that matriarchy apparently did prevail 
in some of the more ancient States of Indo-China. In Burma, 
Furnivall l cites a number of supposed relics of a matriarchal system, 
both in history and modern custom, including marriage of kings 

i Journal of the Burma Research Society, vol. i (1911), pp. 15sqq. 


with half-sisters and inclusion of the late king's concubines in the 
harem of his successor, but his evidence is not in itself very con- 
vincing. Majumdar x states with regard to Campa : 

" In connection with the hereditary succession it is necessary 
to note the importance of the females. Kings are succeeded not only 
by their sister's son, but also by their sister's husband and even wife's 
sister's son. This has been attributed to the system of matriarchy 
which used to prevail in those parts of the country." 

Again, in the case of ancient Cambodia, Groslier 2 quotes from 
Barth as follows : 

" The relationship is not direct from father to son, but from uncle 
to nephew. The mention of the mother in preference to the father 
(in numerous texts) would explain how alone they could remove from 
the nephew the suspicion of a less honourable origin from a wife of 
inferior rank or a concubine. It seems therefore that the family was 
entirely constituted by the feminine line where the successor is not 
the son but the son of the sister and so on." 

Groslier adds that in a chronicle of the religious foundations 
of a sacerdotal family from A.D. 802-1052, the right to priesthood went 
from the son of the sister to the son of the daughter of the sister. 
But he is not disposed to accept this as certain proof of the existence 
of matriarchy in Cambodia, and remarks that there is no sign of it in 
modern times : Sisowath was the brother of Norodom, who was the 
eldest son of Ang Duong (and Monivongs is the eldest son of Sisowath). 
Indeed, it appears to me that we could hardly expect to find recognized 
matriarchy in modern Cambodia if we do not find it so in Siam, for 
we. know that Cambodia, so frequently the vassal of Siam in later 
times, has come to adopt many of her institutions. 

My conclusion, so far as it is possible to come to one on the small 
amount of evidence at our disposal, is that matriarchy was probably 
recognized in ancient Cambodia, but it is doubtful if it could have 
been derived from India which, in the main, is intensely patriarchal. 
That it may have flourished in Thai States under the suzerainty of the 
Khmers is possible ; but after the Thai attained independence it has 
existed only subconsciously and involuntarily, the status of women 
during historical times making its recognition by the Siamese 
impossible. But this lack of recognition has no bearing on the 
sociological aspect of the matter. Though unrecognized, matriarchy 
has undoubtedly continued to exert an important influence on the 
characteristics of the rulers of Siam up to modern times. 

1 Op. cit. 2 Gr., p. 336. 


2. Preliminary Considerations. 

I shall take as a basis for study the Coronation of King Prajadhipok, 
which took place in February, 1926. It differed little from those of the 
three preceding monarchs, and from those of the first three kings of 
the dynasty mainly by reason of the greater elaboration of the later 
Buddhist rites which had in course of time been added to and inter- 
twined with what must have been at one time a purely Hindu ceremony. 
The last Coronation was in accordance with old custom in that it was 
held as soon as possible after the death of King Vajiravudh, and 
within the period of mourning, which was suspended during the 
ceremonies. This custom was the result of the Siamese theory that the 
heir to the late king rules only as a regent and not as a king, until he 
is duly anointed and crowned ; in other words, until the prescribed 
rites have been carried out, he is not as yet qualified to perform the 
divine and priestly functions of a king. King Rama VI, who wished 
that his Coronation should be carried out on a very grand scale before 
a large assemblage of foreign visitors, was obliged to undergo the more 
important rites immediately after his accession, the full ceremonies 
being performed at a later date. 

King Rama I, the founder of the Cakri Dynasty, on victoriously 
mounting the throne, underwent a summary ceremony of anointment 
(prdptdbhiseka), but two years later, having collected all the available 
information concerning the coronation ceremonies of the Ayudhyii 
period, he was anointed and crowned with full rites, which afterwards 
became the model for al 1 future Coronations. 1 As we shall subsequently 
see, some of the features of the modern Coronation were known and 
practised at Sukhodaya, while many of the rites and ideas can be 
traced back to a very early period in India. The Siamese preserve the 
ancient term Rdjdbhiseka for Coronation, meaning literally royal 
anointment (abhiseka), thereby indicating a fact, in support of which 
we have plenty of other evidence, namely, that the earlier, and originally 
the essential, part of the ceremony was the anointment, and not the 
actual crowning, which has now come to symbolize the supreme 
moment. In ancient India Rdjdbhiseka referred to the consecration 
of ordinary kings, but if the Siamese ever had rites restricted to such 
a purpose they have now lost them, for the Siamese Rdjdbhiseka is 
rather a Rdjasuya, or ceremony for the consecration of an emperor, 
and it is extremely interesting to find that some of its features can be 
traced back to the Vedic Rdjasuya described in the fiatapatha Brdh- 
mana. But one cannot definitely identify it as a Rdjasuya, for it also 

* * History of the Second Reign, p. 19. 


contains ideas belonging to other early ceremonies of consecration 
(such, as the Vdjapeya, a Vedic abhiseka not confined to kings), and the 
later modifications of Epic and Pauranic times are also reflected in the 
Siamese ceremony. 

The Siamese Rdjdbhiseka is followed by, and to some extent 
interwoven with, two closely related ceremonies, the Installation of 
the Queen, and the Assumption of the Koyal Residence. For con- 
venience these two ceremonies will be studied separately and after 
the Coronation proper. The former, like the Coronation, is now an 
almost inextricable mixture of Hindu and Buddhist rites ; while the 
latter appears to be, in its present state, a purely Buddhist ceremony. 

3. Scene of the Ceremonies. 

It will be convenient briefly to mention here the group of older 
buildings, situated within the Grand Palace (brah parama mahd raja 
van) enclosure, where the Coronation ceremonies are held. This 
group, known as the Maha Mandira (Chief Residence) is made up of 
three sections, as follows : (1) The Cakrabartibiman, or residence 
proper, containing the state bedchamber, on the south ; (2) the Baisala 
Daksina Hall, an inner hail of audience, in the centre ; and (3) the 
Amarindra Hall, the outer or public hall of audience, on the north. 
All these buildings date from the reign of Rama I, and were actually 
inhabited by the first three kings of the dynasty. Their architecture 
is of the traditional Siamese style, no doubt modelled on that of the 
palaces of earlier capitals. We know little of such ancient palace 
buildings because they were always built of wood and so have perished, 
but-Aymonier 1 believes that the stone temples of Phimeanakas and 
Baphuon situated near the palace at Ankor Thorn were symbolic of 
Kailasa and Meru mountains, and were used in connection with 

There are three other buildings, also within the Grand Palace, which 
play a less important part in the Coronation. These are (1) the Chapel 
Royal of the " Emerald " Buddha, commonly known as Vat Brah 
Kev, but with the official title of Vat Brah $rl Ratana Sasataram 
(" the temple containing the beautiful jewel of the monastery of the 
divine teacher "). It is in itself really a group of buildings including 
the temple proper, the pantheon, library, a tall gilded pagoda, and 
numerous small shrines of great beauty and interest ; (2) the Tusita 
Maha Prasada, which was the scene of the lying-in-state of the late 
king ; (3) the Cakri Palace, a modern building in European style, but 

1 A. iii, p. 138. 


with a purely Siamese roof. The Chapel Royal and the Tusita Maha 
Prasada are gems of Siamese architecture built in the reign of Rama I. 

4. Preliminary Rites. 

For three days before the actual Day of Coronation the Court 
Brahmans performed homa, or sacrifices to Fire (PL V). The images of 
the Hindu deities were placed upon three altars in a ceremonial pavilion 
(ran brah raja bidhi brdhmana) erected for the purpose near the Tusita 
Maha Prasada. Before the altars was placed a copper stove inscribed with 
the appropriate yantra (PI. Ill), and nine basins of water each containing 
a small silver coin known as a/o'aw (no longer current), eight of these 
basins being arranged around a central one. The Brahmans began 
their rites at 8 p.m. in accordance with the rule that Brahmanical 
rites must be performed after dark whenever possible. The Brah 
Maha Raja Gru 1 performed the usual purificatory rites (see 
page 249), read the texts offering worship to the eight directions 
and to the Brahmanic deities. He steeped the leaves of certain trees 
esteemed for their purificatory and medicinal values in the water 
hallowed by the above recitations. Some of these he sent to the King, 
who brushed himself with them in a manner symbolical of purification ; 
others he dipped in honey and oil, and placed them carefully in the 
fire, at the same time reciting texts. This is in accordance with a rite 
performed by Hindus in India, accompanied by the following words : 

" I offer to Siva the triple leaves of the Aegle Marmalos endowed 
with the three qualifications, with the three eyes and with the three 
weapons ; and which destroy the sins of the three existences. By 
seeing the Aegle Marmalos or by touching it one is delivered from 
all sins. A single leaf of Aegle Marmalos destroys the blackest sin." 2 

At the conclusion of the homam the fire was extinguished by some 
of the hallowed water being poured on it from a chank shell. 3 This 
Aomaw sacrifice used to be performed also in connection with the 
Con Parian and New Year Festivals. In the former case it was 

1 He is the " High Priest of &va " but he is also the Head Brahman who presides 
over all Siamese Brahmanic ceremonies. The Vaisnavas have really now no separate 
existence in Siam, and a Brahman takes the part of " High priest of Visnu " only for 
the Coronation Ceremonies. 

* Brahmakarma, iv, 5. 

* The chank-shell (sdnkha) is much used in Siamese ceremonies, and, as in India, 
is especially prized when turned rightwise. Both large and small ones are used for 
lustral water, and as conch-trumpets are most important sacred musical instruments. 
Those used for lustral water are often set with gold and jewels. Several Indian 
legends as to their origin are known in Siam (see Ge. (1), p. 154). 





abolished by King Kama IV, but it still survives in the New Year 
and Coronation Ceremonies. 1 

At the commencement of the above ceremonies offerings were also 
placed before the altars of the Hindu deities in the Brahman temples, 
before the royal white umbrellas to propitiate the spirits thereof, 
and before the images of the guardian spirits of the city (see Chapter 
XXVI). These offerings are usually placed on structures known as 
pm sri, three being used together, i.e. one of gold, one of silver, and 
one of crystal (PI. VI). Each pqi_ sri, of whichever material, consists 
of superimposed trays of decreasing dimensions, so that the whole 
has an auspicious tapering appearance. Probably the pm sri is an 
elaborate development of a primitive pile of leaf platters. 

During these three days Buddhist services of benediction (svat 
brali biiddha mantra) took place in all three sections of the Chief Kesidence 
with the recitation of paritta suttas, the protective thread (say sincana) 
being stretched around the buildings. 2 Each evening a monk of high 
standing delivered a sermon in the Baisala Hall, the King himself 
attending some parts of every service ; and, on the following morning, 
each day, the King presented food to the monks who had officiated, 
and also sent some offerings to the Hindu deities. The services were 
concluded on the morning of the Coronation Day by the extinguishing 
of the Candle of Victory. 3 

1 BRB., p. 163, from which source most of the above information concerning the 
Siamese homa is derived. 

2 Gerini (Ge. (1), pp. 49 sqq.) has published a good deal of information concerning 
the various collections of paritta suttas, or Pali protective stanzas, which make up a 
great part of the recitations performed by the Buddhist monks in the Siamese State 
Ceremonies. It will therefore be unnecessary for me to allude to these texts further. 
The say sincana is a thread of unspun cotton which the monks pass round anything 
that they wish to preserve from evil influences, such as the scene of their rites, a 
building, or even the whole city. The monks hold one end of the string in their 
hands while they recite the paritta sutlas, and the power of their merit is supposed to 
pass along the say sincana by induction, hallowing all within the enclosure. Lustra! 
water is also consecrated by means of the sincana string and the recitation of paritta 
texts, the consecrated water then being known as nam brah parita, i.e. paritta water 
(Ge. (1), p. 151). 

3 The Candle of Victory (dian jaya) is lighted at the beginning and extinguished 
at the end of all great Buddhist ceremonies, and is believed to be the equivalent of 
the Hindu sacred fire. The dian jayas are prepared under the direction of the head 
priest of some royal temple. The wax in each one weighs ten Siamese catties (about 
26 Ib.) ; the wick contains 108 threads, a Buddhist sacred number ; the length is 
about five feet, and around it are inscribed magical formulae and diagrams. The 
dian jaya is usually lighted by means of " celestial fire ", generated by means of a 
burning glass and kept in a special lamp until ready for use, when it is applied to 
the dian jaya by the King by means of a special taper. The special formulae recited 
on the solemn occasions of lighting and extinguishing the Candle of Victory are 
recorded by Gerini (Ge. (1), p. 161). 


5. The Ceremonial Bath and First Anointment. 

On the morning of the Day of Coronation (25th February), the 
.King proceeded to the BaiSala Hall, where Princes, Foreign Repre- 
sentatives, and higher Officials of State were assembled. After making 
profession of the Buddhist faith, at 9.53 a.m., the time being auspicious, 
the High Priest of Siva (Brah Mafia Raja Gru) invited the King to 
take a ceremonial bath of purification and anointment, for which 
purpose the King was clothed in a white robe symbolical of purity. 1 
Prior to taking the bath the King paused at an altar erected in the 
courtyard to light candles and make offerings to the Hindu deities. 

The ceremonial bath took place in a specially prepared pavilion 
(mantapa brah kdyahsandna) between Bai^ala Hall and Cakrabarti- 
biman. The erection of such a pavilion is evidently in accordance with 
ancient Indian tradition. A Mon inscription 2 records the building of 
a great palace at Pagan in the reign of Kyansittha, probably about 
A.D. 1101-02. It included an " ablution pavilion " probably used 
in connection with the king's consecration. 

The water used in this ceremony originated from (a) the five 
principal rivers of the kingdom, i.e. the Cau Brahya, the Sak, the 
Rajapuri, the Bejrapuri, and the Panpahkan rivers, in analogy to the 
famous classical five of ancient India : Gaiiga, Mahi, Yamuna, 
Sarabhu, and Airavati ; (b) water from the four ponds of Subarnapurl 
sanctified through constant usage in every State Ceremony where 
there is a purificatory bath, both in the Ayudhya and Bangkok periods 3 ; 
and (c) some of the water which had been consecrated by the monks 4 
at various shrines in the seventeen provinces of Siam, such shrines 
being chosen either on account of their being the surviving centres 
of ancient civilizations, or in default of such qualifications, from tneir 
being near the present seats of administration. The preparation of 
the consecrated " water " for the Rajasuya is described at length in 
the iSatapatha Brdhmanaf It was obtained from rivers, wells, ponds, 
the sea, etc., but included honey, clarified butter, etc., and these 
together were considered to be seventeen kinds of water. This number 
is remarkable in view of water being collected from the seventeen 
provinces of Siam, but may be only coincidence. From a sociological 
point of view, however, it certainly seems a point of some importance 

1 And with matum (Acgle Marraalos) leaves placed over the right ear, and 
phromachan leaves over the left, according to Ge. (1), p. 129 f.n. 

2 No. ix in Epigraphia Birmamca, vol. iii, pt. 1. 

3 History of the Second Reign, p. 23. 

4 Water is consecrated by the Buddhist monks either (1) by means of the paritta 
thread (nam brah parita) or (2) by the recitation of the mantras (nam mantra). 

8 Satapatha Brdhmana, v, 3, 4, in 8BE. xli, pp. 73 sqq. 


[Photo: Mat* R<iilway* Uept. 


Taptcepaye 7,5.] 


that every province in the land should be given a share in the 

The King having taken his seat in the ceremonial (PL VII) pavilion, 
some of the water was first handed to him by a Brahman in a small golden 
bowl. The King then dipped his hand into this, and rubbed it on 
the top of his head. A rope was then pulled, which released a shower 
of water from the canopy above, through the petals of a golden lotus. 
The water thus represented a celestial shower. In the Vedic Rdjasuya 
the king also rubbed the sprinkled water over himself with the horn 
of a black antelope, the explanation of this action being, that the 

" collected essence of the waters wherewith he anoints himself means 
vigour : ' May this vigour of mine spread through my whole self/ 
thus he thinks, and therefore he rubs it all over himself." l 

Finally the Siamese king is offered water by ministers and relatives, 
in the case of the last Coronation, by the late Prince Barnaransi, the 
Prince of Nagara Svarga, and the Prince Patriarch (head of the 
Buddhist priesthood). 

It appears to me probable that this part of the ceremony is primarily 
a rite of purification, preliminary to the anointment proper, which 
formed the main part of the consecration, and will be considered in 
the next section. My reasons for supposing that it was originally 
only a preliminary rite are as follows : 

(1) Ablutions, as an antidote against defilement, are the daily 
duty of every high-caste Hindu, and would especially be requisite 
before embarking on any important .ceremonial. 2 If possible, the 
water used should be from one of the sacred rivers of India, but where 
this is impossible "he fixes his thoughts on the Ganges, and imagines 
that he is really bathing in that river ". 3 Such a bath of purification 
as performed by an Indian king is described in the Antagada Dasao^ 
in which, although the bathing was not on the occasion of a royal 
consecration, it is remarkable to note the similarity to the ideal aimed 
at in the Siamese ceremony, and in the construction of the bathing 
pavilion : 

" There in a delightful bath-chamber, entirely covered with 
lattice- work, and pleasant, and floored with divers gems and jewels, 
he sat comfortably on a bath-dais figured with patterns in divers 
jewels, and was bathed with pure waters, with scented waters, with 
flower waters, and with holy waters again and again, according to 
the rule of happy and excellent bathing. When the happy and excellent 

1 Satapatha Bralimatia, v, 4, 2, 4, in SEE. xli, p. 96. 

2 D., p. 186. 3 D., p. 242. 

* Oriental Translation Fund, N.S., volume xvii, 1907, p. 20. 


bathing had been brought to an end with hundreds of manifold charm 
wrappings, his body was rubbed with downy soft cloths dyed with 
fragrant saffron. His limbs were smeared with fresh sweet-scented 
gosira sandal. A perfect and noble robe of great price was wrapped 
round him. A pure chaplet and an adorning unguent were put 
upon him." 

(2) The amount of water used gives one rather the idea of a bath 
than of an anointment. The sprinkling of kings at their consecration 
is mentioned in many Jdtakas ; and in the Jataka reliefs in the Ananda 
Temple, Pagan, there are coronation anointment scenes in which 
Brahmans are represented as offering consecrated water in conches, 
i.e. in small quantities suitable for anointment. 1 

(3) In Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 2 where the 
general features of the abhiseka duiing the Pauranic peiiod are 
summarized, it is stated that 

" prior to the rite (e.g. on the previous day) the king undergoes a 
purification, consisting of a bath, etc. . . . while, later, in the actual 
ceremony, the king is sprinkled not only by the purohita, but also 
by other priests, by the ministers and relatives and by the citizens." 

In Siam this offering of water by ministers and relatives takes 
place at the time of the purificatory bath, and so seems to have been 
transposed from its original place in connection with the anointment 

My conclusion, therefore, on the above evidence, is that the 
Pauranic purificatory bath has in Siam been confused with the earlier 
idea of anointment, and that the ceremony is now a mixture of the 
two. I suggest that this confusion might have been brought about 
by reason of the fact that, since oil is not used for anointment .as it 
was in ancient India (mixed with other ingredients), the main outward 
distinction between the two rites has been lost and their significance 
thus confused. But this confusion of the negative rite of lustration 
with the positive one of unction is not confined to Siam. The earlier 
idea was that fat or oil (imbued with the sacred essence by means of 
magical or religious formulae) was the most suitable medium for 
transferring power or sanctity to a person or thing, and that water 
was only purificatory. But, later, water also came to be regarded as 
a suitable unguent. 3 

During the time that the ceremonial bath was in progress, ancient 

1 Epigraphia Birmanica, vol. ii, pt. 2, showing anointment scenes of the following 
kings : No. 47, Janaka ; No. 106, Nimi ; No. 206, the son of Vedeha ; No. 217, 
Candakumara ; No. 221, Bhuridatta. 

a Art. " Abhiseka ". 

8 fcrawley, Studies of Savages and Sex, chap. viii. 


guns were fired within the precincts of the Grand Palace, a fanfare 
of drums and trumpets was sounded, and the Brahmans played their 
ceremonial music, 1 while eighty Buddhist monks, assembled in the 
Baisala Hall, chanted stanzas of benediction. 

6. The Ceremony on the Octagonal Throne and Second Anointment. 

After the Ceremonial Bath the King retired, shortly to reappear 
in full regal robes which included the gold embroidered pha-nun, or 
Siamese national lower garment, not derived from Cambodia, but 
probably an adaptation of the Indian dhoti ; and the gold embroidered 
robe or long tunic. Such a long tunic is mentioned in inscriptions as 
having been worn by the kings of ancient Campa. 2 In Vedic India 
the presentation of special garments to the king at Edjasuya consecra- 
tion took place, and the inner and outer garments were regarded 
as the amnion and chorion, thus symbolizing rebirth. 3 

The King then made his way to the Baisala Hall, preceded by 
Brahmans and Court Pandits, in the following order : 

Left File Right File 

1. Brahman priest, bearing an 1. Court Pandit (Rajapdn<}ita), 
image of (lancsa. bearing an image of the 

Buddha, called Lord of 

2.) Brahmans with pdndahrah 2. \Brahmans with pdndahcah 
3.J drums. 3.J drums. 

4.) . 4- 

5. f Brahmans blowing conches. 5. VBrahmans blowing conches. 

6.J ' 6.J 

7. High Priest of Visnu, scatter- 7. High Priest of Siva, scatter- 

ing roasted grains. ing roasted grains. 

8. A Brahman. 8. A Brahman. 

The King 

1 Besides the conch-trumpet, the Brahmans have a small flageolet, a bell, a gong, 
and a drum called pdndahvah, similar instruments being recognizable on the bas- 
reliefs of Ankor (Gr., Figs. 81 and 82). The pdndahvah drum is now, I believe, only 
used in connection with the Coronation. The Brahmans describe it as a drum used 
to awaken Siva in the morning, and one of identical shape is still used by a sect of 
Saivites in India, where it is known as the damaru. The pdndahvah is a small hour- 
glass shaped drum, operated by a string and ball attached to a peg projecting from 
its middle (Go. (1), p. 153). An outburst of music from these instruments marks the 
critical moments in most state ceremonies, especially in the Coronation. Such was 
also the case in ancient India, as, for example, in the Coronation described in the 
Antagada Dasao, where there was " great massed beating of noble drums, with loud 
pealings of trumpets, gongs, tambours, kettledrums, and other drums great and 

2 Majumdar, op. cit., chap xiv. 

3 Satapatha Brahmana, v. 3, 5, 20-1, in SEE., xli, pp. 85 sq. 


It will be noticed that the Buddha, as well as the chief Hindu 
gods, are represented either by their images or priests in the above 
procession, thereby symbolizing the participation of both Hinduism 
and Buddhism in the coming ceremonies. It may also be mentioned 
that the Court Pandits, who play an important part throughout the 
Coronation, are not Brahmans, but high Siamese noblemen or even 
princes who take the part of Wise Men of the Court, just as, until the 
government was reorganized on modern lines, the post of purohita 
still survived but was held by a Siamese noble, not by a Brahman. 

On entering the Baisala Hall, the King seated himself on the 
Octagonal Throne (Brah-dwmn Athadisa), of fig-wood (udumbara), 
beneath the seven-tiered White Umbrella of State, there to receive 
further anointment (PL VIII). The throne was spread over with hydgd 
(corresponding to the Indian darbha grass), covered with a white cloth ; 
while opposite each face of the throne was a small table on which was 
placed the image of the guardian of the quarter (lokapala), and the 
ceremonial water and conch. The King first sat facing the East, 
the quarter of the sun, and hence perhaps another indication of the 
king's early equivalence to the sun. The Pandit for this point advanced 
to the foot of the throne, and, having made due obeisance (thavay 
pahgam), addressed the King in Pali to the following effect 1 : 

" May it please your Majesty ! May the Sovereign here give me 
leave to pronounce his victory. May the Sovereign, turning now 
towards the East, seated upon his royal throne, extend his protection 
and exercise his royal authority over all those realms situated to 
(the east) and all beings that therein dwell. May he remain on earth, 
further protecting this kingdom, as well as her Buddhist Keligion 
and her people. May he remain long in sovereignty, without ills, 
accomplishing success, and may his years number a hundred. ' May 
the Sovereign Guardian of the East, renowned as Dhataratha, gently 
protect the King and his realms. Whoever create evil in this eastern 
quarter, may the Sovereign, through his might, triumph over them 
all in a righteous manner." 

The Pandit then handed a conch of anointment water from the 
Eastern Provinces, while reciting the following stanza : 

" Through the power of the Triple Gems (the Buddha, the Law, 
and the Brotherhood), and through this water poured down upon 
him may the King be awarded success in the way heretofore invoked." 

The King answered in Pali verse as follows : 

" Your auspicious speech, going right to the heart of kings, I fain 
accept. May it come to pass as you have said. I shall extend my 

1 The following speeches, translated into English from the Pali, are from H.H. 
Prince Dhani's pamphlet on the Coronation. 


. State Ito 


protection and exercise my royal authority over all those realms 
to the East and all beings that dwell therein. I shall remain on earth 
further protecting this kingdom, and her Buddhist religion and her 

The Pandit then said, 
" Good, my Lord." 

The King then turned to the south-east, where the same dialogue 
was repeated with modifications as to names of the quarters and their 
traditional celestial guardians. Thus the King turned round in order, 
until, finally having completed the round, he turned again to the 
Pandit for the East, who summed up the benediction and the King 
answered in Pali verse similar to the above. 

I shall now analyse, under a number of sub-headings, the derivation 
and significance of the Ceremony on the Octagonal Throne : 

(1) My first contention is that the anointment on the Octagonal 
Throne corresponds to what was at an early period the essential 
abhiseJca of kings, but which has now been overshadowed both by 
the Ceremonial Bath and by the Actual Coronation, the latter being, 
I believe, of comparatively late origin. 

(2) As already stated, the anointment was undoubtedly formerly 
performed with oil as in India, but the change to water was brought 
about by Buddhism in both Siam and Burma ; but in Cambodia the 
custom of anointing with oil was only discontinued at the coronation 
of Sisowath. 

(3) In the Vedic Rdjasuya the king was anointed by the purohita, 
and in Pauranic times by the purohita, other priests, ministers, 
relatives, and even citizens. Now in Siam the Brahmans have fallen 
too low and the kingship been elevated too high for any to perform 
that office but the King himself, and thus, though Brahmans and 
others hand him water, he actually anoints himself. This is, of course, 
really rather illogical, since hefore the King has been anointed, he is 
not properly qualified to perform divine or priestly functions. 

(4) A point of interest in connection with the abhiscka in ancient 
India, is that in the Vedic Rdjasuya the king was anointed " whilst 
standing with his face turned towards the East "/ while the Siamese 
King, although seated, also first anoints himself on the Octagonal 
Throne when facing the East. 

(5) The King's promise to protect his people and the Buddhist 
Religion may be contrasted with those oaths of fidelity extracted 
by the Brahmans in ancient India. Though we get no oath in the 
Rdjasuya described in the Satapatha Brdhmana, the following 

1 Satapatha Brahmaiia, v, 4, 2, 1, in SEE. xli, p. 94. * 


ceremony of passing round the sacrificial sword clearly indicates the 
ascendency of the Brahmans at the time when the passage was written, 
but it may be a later interpolation for we know that in early Vedic 
times the Ksatriyas and Brahmans lived more or less on equal terms : 

" A Brahmana then hands to him (the king) the sacrificial (wooden) 
sword either the Adhvaryu, or he who is his (the king's) domestic 
chaplain with ' India's thunderbolt thou art : therewith serve me ! ' 
the sacrificial sword being a thunderbolt, that Brahmana, by 
means of that thunderbolt, makes the king to be weaker than himself." 1 

And in the Indrdbhiseka described in the Aitareya Bfahmana, the 
king swore life-long fealty to the purohita. 2 In later times, in those 
States where the power of the Brahmans was absolutely supreme, the 
coronation ceremony consisted almost entirely of oaths, as shown, 
for example, by the twelfth century Arakancse ceremony. 3 In the 
Siamese Coronation we find little surviving trace of an oath, and 
should hardly expect to do so, considering the relative position of the 
King and the Brahmans. This abolition of the coronation oath is a 
late development in the history of kingship : 

" From the earliest times the consecration was made conditional 
on a just rule, and it is only when nations reached the phase of 
excessive centralisation and excessive elevation of the kingship over 
all other ranks that kings and their courts tried to forget the conditional 
nature of the royal power." 4 

(6) The use of Pali, the sacred language of Buddhism, and the 
Buddhist flavour of the whole dialogue, even when issuing from the 
mouths of supposed Brahman Pandits, is indicative of its late invention. 
There appears to me, however, to be an ancient basis to the opening 
speech of the pandits, " May the Sovereign give me leave to pronounce 
his victory, etc." It is interesting to compare it to the following 
passage referring to the coronation of Prince Goyame in the Jain 
scripture, Antagada Dasao : 

" Victory, victory to thce, blessed one ! Victory, victory to 
thee, happy one ! Happiness to thee ! Conquer the unconquered, 
preserve the conquered, dwell amidst the conquered . . . Mayst 
thou preserve thy supreme life free from harm and loss, glad and joyful 
for many years, many hundreds and thousands and hundreds of 
thousands of years ! " 

Again, there is the shout of victory of the Buddha after he had 
been handed the symbols of royalty in the Tusita heaven, just before 

1 Ibid., v, 4, 4, 15. 2 Aitareya Brdhmay,a t viii, 15. 

3 Journal of the Burma Research Society, vii (1917), pp. 181 sqq. 
4 Hocart, Kingship, p. 95. 


his last birth, and beginning " I am the chief of the world ", 1 And in 
the Burmese coronation ceremony these words were repeated aloud by 
the new king. 2 The Siamese and Cambodian ceremonies of Coronation 
are replete with references to victory, e.g. Candle of Victory, Gong of 
Victory, and Crown of Victory. But what kind of victory is referred 
to ? It was certainly not a physical victory, for the King of Siam 
quietly succeeded his brother, and the King of Cambodia was appointed 
by the French government. The early Indian writings mention the 
same kind of victory, for example, in the Vdjapeya the sacrificer makes 
an offering of ghee, thinking that he does thus 

" smite the fiends, the Kakshas, in the quarters, by that thunderbolt, 
the ghee ; and thus he gains the victory thinking, ' May I be consecrated, 
when safety and security have been gained ! ' " 3 

In the Vedic Eajasuya there was actually a symbolic foray or 
sham fight in which the king obtained the victory, 4 and the idea of 
victory is present in the Punardbhiscka. 5 Hocart 6 has pointed out 
that this magical victory in a magical contest, where the victory was 
gained over the demons by the power of sacrifice, was common in 
Indian literature, and he has also shown that this idea of victory is 
extremely widespread in coronation ceremonies. 

(7) It is interesting to note that the Octagonal Throne is made of 
figwood (udumbara =ficus glonierata), and that the throne used in the 
abhiseka described in the Aitareya Brdhmina 7 was also of figwood, 
(though in the Satapatha Brahmina 8 it is said to have been of khadira = 
acacia catechu). The ficus glomerata has been esteemed as sacred in 
India since time immemorial, partly because its fruit seemed to appear 
without a previous flowering stage and partly because this fruit was 
in early times a staple food in India. Later the Hindus and Buddhists 
encompassed it with religious myths. 

(8) The eightfold ceremony on the Octagonal Throne is evidently 
the modern representative of a rite which took place in the ancient 
Vedic Eajasuya. In the account given in the Satapcttha Brdhmxna 9 
two such rites are described at different stages in the Rdjasuya, but, 
bearing in mind the repetition which is characteristic of Brahmanic 
literature, it seems certain that they are two versions of one and the 
same rite. The first is : 

1 Rhys Davids, Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 155. 

2 Harvey, History of Burma, p. 325. 

8 Satapatha Brahvnana, v, 2, 4, 7, in 8BE. xli, p. 49. 

Ibid., v, 4, 3, in SBE. xli, pp. 98 sqq., and note 1, p. 100. 

5 Aitareya Brahmana, viii, 10. 6 Hocart, Kingship, chap. iii. 

7 Aitareya Brahmana, viii, 5. 8 v, 4, 4, 1, in SBE. xli, p. 105., 

v, 4, 1, 3-8, and v, 4, 4, 6, in SBE. xli. 


" He then makes him ascend the regions, with ' Ascend thou 
the East ! May the Gayatri (metre) protect thee, the Rathanatara- 
saman, the threefold stoma, the spring season, the Priesthood, that 
precious treasure ! ' " 

A similar verse is repeated for each of the other four regions, South, 
West, North, and the Upper Region, with modification as to season, 
etc., and concluding with the explanation of the commentator: 

" And as to why he makes him ascend the quarters that is a form 
of the seasons : it is the seasons, the year, that he thereby makes him 
ascend ; and having ascended the seasons, the year, he is high, high 
above everything here, and everything here is below him." 

The second version of the rite is as follows : 

" He (the purohita) then throws the five dice into his (the king's) 
hand with ' Dominant thou art : may these five regions of thine 
prosper ! ' Now that one, the Kali, is indeed dominant over the (other) 
dice, for that one dominates over all the dice ; therefore he says, 
' Dominant thou art : may these five regions of thine prosper ! ' 
For there are indeed five regions, and all the regions he thereby causes 
to prosper for him ! " 

In later times, perhaps as a result of greater geographical knowledge, 
we get the eight regions substituted for the five, and another late 
introduction is evidently the Invocation of the Guardians of the 
Quarters, for they are not those of classical Hindu mythology, but are 
in accordance with the Siamese Buddhist modification, viz. : Dhata- 
ratha (E.), Virulhaka (S.), Virupakkha (W.), and Kuvera (N.), the 
subsidiary regions being entrusted to the followers of the above four, 
i.e. Bhiita or genii (S.E.), Deva or celestials (S.W.), Naga or serpents 
(N.W.), and Yakkha or giants (N.E.). From a sociological point of 
view, this anointment facing the eight directions must always have 
been of great value in emphasizing the Siamese king's protection 
of all parts of the realm, especially in the days of Old Siam, when the 
royal power grew weaker in proportion to the distance at which an 
outlying province was situated from the capital. 

7. The Ceremony of Actual Coronation. 

The Ceremony on the Octagonal Throne having been completed, 
the King advanced towards the western part of the Baisala Hall, 
preceded by the Brahmans and Pandits in the order already described, 
and followed by chamberlains and pages bearing the Regalia in the 
following order : 




(a) Royal Regalia and Utensils. 

1. The Great White 

The Brahman Girdle 

The Golden Tablet of 

The Great Crown of 

Umbrella of State 

(Brab sdnval brdh- 

Style and Title (Brab 

Victory (Brah maha 




bijdya mankut). 

2. The Sceptre (Dhdr- 

The Girdle of Brilliants 

The Girdle of the Nine 

The Sword of Victory 


(Brah sdnval brab 

Gems (Brab sdnval 

(Brah sen khargafaya- 


nabardtana rajavard- 



3. The Fan (Batval- 

The Whisk of the 

The Whisk of the 

The Slippers (Chaldn 


Yak's Tail (Brah se 

White Elephant's 
Tail (Brah sehanjan). 

brab pdda). 

4. The Stick (Dhdr 

The Diamond Ring 

The Ring (Brahdhdm- 

The Personal Sword 


(Brah dhdmmaranga 

maranga rdtanavard- 

(Brah sen fdkdtm- 




5. The Receptacle 

The Betel Nut Set 

The Water Urn (Brah 

The Libation Vessel 




(Brab tau ddk sino- 



(b) The Eight Weapons of Sovereignty 

6. The " Hostage 

The Discus (Brah sen 

The Trident (Brab sen 

The " Diamond Spear " 

Sword " (Bra h sen 



(Brab sen hdk bejra- 



7. The Long Handled 

The Sword and 

The Bow (Brah sen 

The "Gun of the 

8woT<l^(Brah sen 

Buckler (Brah sen 


Satoh" ^(Brabitfn 

kho hdv sen bal 

tab Jchen). 

pu'n kham mendm 


sat on). 

The history and significance of the various articles of the Regalia 
will be fully considered in the next chapter. 

The ceremony of Actual Coronation is performed on a throne of 
gilded figwood called the Bhadmpitha Throne (PI. IX), which seems to 
correspond to a throne of the same name used in coronation ceremonies 
of Pauianic times. 1 It is covered with hya gd ( = darbha grass), overlaid 
with a white cloth upon which again is laid a cloth of gold embroidered 
with a vermilion figure of a royal lion (rajasihd). The latter is a very 
ancient feature, for both the Aitamja and Satapaiha Brdhmana mention 
that the throne was draped with a tiger skin and this persisted with 
the golden Bkadrapitha thrones of the Pauranic period. 

The King seated himself on the Bhadrapifha Throne beneath an 
umbrella of seven tiers, which, after the King was crowned, was 
replaced by one of nine tiers, emblematic of full sovereignty. The 
High Priest of &va then came before him and, after rendering homage, 
pronounced the Tamil mantra, the Siamese name of which means 
" Opening the portals of Kailasa ". He then paid homage in the 
following Pali speech, at the same time handing to the King the 
Golden Tablet of Style and Title : 

" May it please Your Majesty to grant me leave to address Your 
Majesty ! Since Your Majesty has received full anointment and 

1 ERE. art. "Abhiseka ". 


become His Majesty the King of Siam, we therefore beg in unanimity 
to present to Your Majesty Your full style and title as engraved upon 
this tablet of gold as also to hand to Your Majesty these regalia 
befitting Your high dignity. May Your Majesty be known by that 
style and accept these regalia. Having done so, may Your Majesty 
take upon Yourself the business of government, and, for the good and 
happiness of the populace, reign on in righteousness ! " 

The King replied, also in Pali, " Be it so, Brahman " ; and the 
dialogue was then repeated in Siamese. This use of the three languages 
is interesting : The corrupt mantras, by reason of their being unintelli- 
gible, together with their venerable antiquity, are of sociological value 
in surrounding the ceremony with an air of mystery. On the other 
hand the Pali dialogue seems to be modern ; it was made up after the 
knowledge of Sanskrit was forgotten, and Pali was used, perhaps 
not so much out of reverence for Buddhism, but because it was the 
only alternative sacred language. But it is obvious that no purpose 
could be served by keeping the officials and people in ignorance of the 
meaning of this dialogue ; hence the repetition in Siamese, which 
performs the valuable sociological function of impressing on their 
minds the dignity of the new king. 

The High Priest of Siva then took the Great Crown of Victory 
from its bearer and handed it to the King, who put it on his head. 
Although he received the Crown from the hands of a representative 
of the god Siva, it is quite natural that a divine or priestly king would 
not tolerate the idea of actually being crowned by mortal hands 
and hence the King crowned himself. In Europe the contrary view 
prevailed, except in Russia, where 

" the Tsar was anointed by the metropolitan, but placed the crown 
on his head himself. He received the sacrament among the clergy, 
the priestly theory of his office being recognized." l 

This is a remarkable parallel to the procedure in Siam. 

The King's placing the Crown on his head, now considered the 
supreme moment of the Coronation, was signalized by the usual 
Brahmanic music and fanfare within the palace, the firing of salutes 
without, and the ringing of monastery bells throughout the country. 
At the same time, Buddhist monks, waiting in the other parts of the 
Chief Residence, recited a blessing. 

The High Priest of Siva then handed one by one the other regalia 
to the King, who touched them to signify his acceptance, after which 
they were placed by attendants on tables ranged on either side of the 

1 Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. " Coronation ". The Kings of Prussia also 
crowned themselves. 





throne. The High Priest of Visnu handed the nine-tiered Great White 
Umbrella to the King, and substituted it for the one of seven tiers 
above the throne. At the same time he made a speech in Pali, similar 
to that delivered by the High Priest of Siva, to which the King replied 
as before, with again Siamese repetitions. A Brahman then chanted 
a mantra in praise of Siva, following which another Brahman chanted 
a mantra in praise of Visnu, and these recitations were accompanied 
by the usual ceremonial music of the Brahmans. At the conclusion 01 
this, all the Brahmans rendered homage before the King, and the 
High Priest of Siva, kneeling in front, thus pronounced a final 
benediction : 

" May His Majesty, the Supreme Lord, who now reigns over 
the kingdom here, triumph over all and everywhere alway." 

It has already been remarked that the ceremony of actual crowning 
together with the presentation of the other regalia, has in Siam come 
to usurp the place of chief importance held in early times by the 
abhiseJca. Now it is known from an old manuscript, that survived from 
the Ayudhya period, that at the Coronation of King Paramakosa 
(A.D. 1733), Buddhist monks recited the scriptures for three days, 
following which in the morning the king took a ceremonial bath, 
mounted the Octagonal Throne, and the Brahmans pronunced his 
victory and recited mantras. There was no ceremony on the Bhadra- 
pitha Throne nor any presentation of the regalia. 1 I do not, however, 
think that we can accept this as evidence that there was no ceremony 
of Actual Coronation on the Bhadrapitha Throne during the Ayudhya 
period, but only that it was then considered less important than the 
abhiseka and was likely to be omitted in troublous times. The idea 
is certainly old, though far younger than that of the abhiseJca, and 
takes us back at least to Pauranic times. Indeed, so far as Siam is 
concerned, an inscription of the reign of King Dharmaraja I of Sukho- 
daya 2 records the abhiseka of that king, with the presentation of regalia, 
and a new name. The presentation of the regalia to the king, though 
not the actual crowning, can even be traced back to Vedic times. 
Then the purohita presented the newly consecrated king with a bow 
and three arrows, accompanying the act with the following words 
addressed to the bow : 

" Thou art Indra's Vritra killer . . . May he (the king) slay Vritra 
by thee," 

1 History of the Second Reign, p. 16. 

8 Coedfes, Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, Ins. iv, p. 97. 


whereby, the commentator explains, he means to say, 
" May he slay by thee his spiteful enemy." l 

The fact that the only regalia presented to the king at the time 
when this Brahmana was written, were warlike weapons, and the nature 
of the words that accompany the presentation, indicate that we 
are not then far from the time when the king was the actual war- 
chief. Later other regalia were evolved, the donning of the crown 
coming in course of the ages to signify the supreme moment in the 
king's consecration. 

To return to the Siamese ceremony, the King, having received 
the final benediction of the Brahmans, pronounced his first command 
as a fully anointed and crowned monarch, in the following words : 

" Brahmans, now that I have assumed the full responsibility of 
government, I shall reign in righteousness for the good weal of the 
populace. I extend my royal authority over you and your goods and 
your chattels, and as your sovereign do hereby provide for your 
righteous protection, defence and keeping. Trust me and live 
at ease." 

The High Priest of Siva was the first man formally to receive the 
King's command, thus : " I do receive the first command of Your 
Majesty." But though this royal speech is designated as a command, 
it appears to me to have very much the appearance of a disguised 
oath of office, a survival from the days when kings had to swear 
fealty to the Brahmans. 

The symbolism all through the ceremony of actual Coronation 
is, as Prince Dhani has pointed out, clearly along the lines of an 
assumption that the chief deities, especially Siva, are invited (Jown to 
the earth to become merged in the person of the crowned King. Hence 
the hymn " Opening the Portals of Kailasa ", by way of invitation ; 
the mantras in praise of the two high gods ; the presence among the 
regalia of such articles as the Brahman girdle ; Visnu's discus, and 
Siva's trident ; the epithet, within the full style of the king, of the 
" Incarnation of Celestial Gods " (Dibyadebdvatara) ; and finally the 
use of the mystic contraction, referring to the Hindu Trinity, in the 
phrase "Omkdra" to denote the command of the crowned King, 
whereas before Coronation his command never ranks as an Omkdra. 
We therefore seem to have a- mild form of identification of the King 
with the deity, a process which reached its acme in the cult of the 
Deva-raja in Cambodia, but which has been weakened by Hlnayana 
Buddhism in Siam. We can trace the idea back to Vedic times where, 
1 Satapatha Brahmay,a, v, 3, 5, 28, in SEE. xli, p. 88. 


in the Rajasuya, we find the pronouncing of the avid formulae, after 
the presentation of regalia, which announce the presence of the deities 
to witness and approve the consecration. Thus : 

" ' Present are Heaven and Earth the all propitious ' ; he (the 
purohita) thus announces him (the king) to those two, the heaven 
and the earth, and they approve of his consecration ; and approved 
by them he is consecrated." * 

And, later, in the Rdjasuya, the purohita addresses the king, 
thus : 

" ' Thou art Brahman ! Thou art Varuna of true power ! ' He 
thereby lays vigour into him, and causes Varuna to be of true power. 
. . . ' Thou art Brahman ! Thou art Indra, mighty through the 
people ! ' He thereby lays vigour into him and causes Indra to be 
mighty through the people." 2 

Being now fully crowned, the King scattered gold and silver flowers 
and coins among the Brahmans, an action which he repeated later, 
on leaving the hall of audience. Prince Dhani regards this as a symbol 
of riches and plenty, but I think that the gold flowers are rather more 
reminiscent of those angelic showers of flowers which were rained from 
heaven on great occasions, as, for example, frequently mentioned in 
the Siamese Life of the Buddha. The earliest classical reference in 
Indian literature to a king making such presents at the time of his 
consecration seems to be supplied by the Ramayana, in the case of 
the Coronation of the hero Rama. 

The King next poured out a libation to Nan Dharani, the Goddess 
of Earth. This, in my opinion, is not in itself an oath or " Vow of his 
undertaking to take up the reins of government for the good of all ", 
as Prince Dhani supposes. It is rather the confirmation or ratification 
of the former promises given by the King in his " first command ". 
The outpouring of water is an ancient Brahmanical ceremony of ratifica- 
tion. It is frequently mentioned in Buddhist works also, as, for 
example, when the King of Magadha presented his garden Veluvana 
to the Buddha as a site for a monastery, he ratified the gift by pouring 
water from a shell upon the earth. 3 

8. The Buddhist Benediction. 

The King then removed the Crown (a sign of humility in the presence 
of the Buddhist Chapter he was about to meet), and proceeded to the 

1 Satapatha Brahmana, v, 3, 5, 36, in SEE. xli, p. 90. 

2 Ibid., v, 4, 4, 10-11, in SBE. xli, p. 109. 

3 Alabaster, The Wheel of the Law, p. 224. 


Cakrabartibiman, with chamberlains and pages bearing the regalia 
after him. Here the King received the first royal blessing from the 
Prince Patriarch, in full assembly of the clergy who had been officiating 
since the 22nd February. 

9. The General Audience. 

At 1 p.m. on the Day of Coronation the King received the homage 
of the Royal Family and the official world in the Amarindra Hall. 
Guards of Honour lined the grounds within the Grand Palace, the 
King's charger was fully caparisoned, and the State Elephant was 
ready at the mounting platform outside the Hall of Amarindra, which 
reminds one of the fact that the choice of an elephant and a white 
horse (two of the royal ratnas) was an essential of coronations in the 
Pauranic period in India. 1 

The King was in full state robes, wearing the Great Crown of 
Victory, and seated upon the Brah-dl-ndh Budtdn Don (Golden 
Hibiscus Throne). This throne is more highly ornamented than the 
Bhadrapitha, and is set on a tall pyramidal tiered base carved with 
figures of devatds and garudas 2 

The ceremony, at which I was amongst those present, was in the 
nature of a Royal Audience, and will be considered in the chapter 
devoted to Audiences. At the moment I shall speak only of the 
special features of the Audience, in relation to the Coronation : H.R.H. 
Prince Barnaransi read an address of congratulation and formal 
avowal of loyalty in the name of the assemblage, to which the King 
replied, thanking and enjoining all to carry on the government as here- 
tofore, assuring them at the same time of his readiness to see and 
hear every official so far as opportunity might allow. But this is a 
modification of ancient custom to suit modern constitutional methods 
of government. An account of the ceremony as performed in Old 
Siam is given by Pallegoix : 

%< One of the chief nobles advances crawling, and thus addresses 
the King : ' Your Majesty's servant is directed, on behalf of all the 
dignified nobles here present, to offer our united homage, bending 
our heads at the sacred feet of your glorious Majesty, Somdetch Phra 
Chom Klau, our refuge, who are mounted on the diamond-adorned 
throne, invested with the sovereign power ; seated under the many- 
tiered umbrella, the terror of your enemies, whose august name is 
written on the plate of gold. We ask leave to deposit at the sacred 
feet of your Majesty everything we possess, and all the treasures 
of the kingdom.' The King answers : ' All the dignified nobles shall 
have the privilege of appearing in my presence, as they desire, to 

1 ERE. art. " Abhiseka ". 

2 The history of this throne will be discussed in the chapter on Royal Audiences. 


offer their services according to their several functions. So let 
each, without fear, come and present his service.' Then the Phya 
Phra KJang (the minister for foreign affairs) prostrates himself, and 
presents to the King the royal barges, ships of war, arsenals, soldiers, 
and military appurtenances. The Phya Suphavadi offers the elephants, 
horses, and the capitals of the provinces of the first, second, third, 
and fourth order, with all their inhabitants. The master of the palace 
presents the palace and all its contents. The minister of justice presents 
the city of Bangkok. The minister of agriculture offers the produce 
of the fields and the gardens. The treasurer gives the twelve 
departments of the royal exchequer." x 

But the king immediately returned all these riches to the 
guardian-ship of those who had presented them, enjoining all the 
officials to carry on the government as heretofore. 

This ceremony possessed, as it still does in its modern form, an 
important functional value. It impressed upon the officials and the 
people at large that they enjoyed their offices and the fruit of the 
land directly through the munificence of the new ruler, and not as 
legacies from the past reign. The prototype of this audience first 
appears in Pauranic times, with the ceremony of presentation of the 
officials to the king, and in his confirmation of their appointment. 2 

10. Aiidience to the Palace Ladies. 

The General Audience having terminated, the King, having 
doffed the Great Crown and donned the Kathina Crown, 3 retired to 
the Baisala Hall for the Ceremony of the Queen's Investiture, which 
will be described in Chapter VIII. The King then received the 
congratulations of the ladies, to which he replied thanking all, and 
again giving the customary permission of access to his person. 

11. Acceptance of the Headship of the Buddhist Religion. 

At 4 p.m. on the same day, the King, seated on a state palanquin, 
was carried in procession to the Chapel Royal. He wore the Great 
Crown while seated on the palanquin, but when on foot before mounting 
the palanquin, after leaving it, and while on his way to enter the 
temple, he wore a Royal Hat. 3 On entering the Chapel Royal the 
King made offerings of gold and silver flowers and lit candles before 
the " Emerald Buddha " and the images of Buddha representing the 
earlier kings of the dynasty. Then, in full congregation of the higher 

1 P. i, 261-6. Prince Damrong (History of the Second Reign, p. 30) gives a similar 
account of the ceremony at the coronation audience of Rama II, but states with 
greater accuracy that it was the Krafylahom who offered the royal barges and military 

2 ERE. art. " Abhiseka ". 3 See p. 98. 


clergy of the kingdom, he made a formal declaration of his religion and 
of his willingness to become " Defender of the Faith " (brahparamara- 
ju^hdmabhakbrdhbiiddhasdsand), in the following formula : 

" My Lords ! Whereas being a believer and one pleased (with 
the religion of the Buddha), having taken refuge in the Trinity in due 
form, and now having been anointed in sovereignty, I therefore give 
myself up to the Buddha, the Law, and the Brotherhood ; I shall 
provide for the righteous protection, defence and keeping of the 
Buddhist Keligion. If agreeable, my Lords, may the Brotherhood 
recognize me as ' Defender of the Buddhist Faith V 

The whole clergy then signified their acceptance and the president 
of the Chapter then pronounced the supreme blessing as follows : 

" May the Great King Paraminda Maha Prajadhipok of Siam 
live to a full century of years in happiness and good health. May 
all his duties and deeds be crowned with success, may wealth and 
victory be his for ever ! " 

We recognize in this purely Buddhist ceremony a late addition of 
King Rama IV designed to leave no doubt in the minds of any that 
Buddhism is supreme, and that the king is above all a Buddhist 

12. Homage to Ancestors. 

The King, borne on a palanquin and wearing the Great Crown, 
next proceeded in full state to the Tusita Maha Prasada. He removed 
the Crown and entered the building on foot for the purpose of paying 
homage to the memory of his predecessors. Here the late King 
Rama VI was lying in state, and the urns containing the relics of the 
other five kings of the dynasty as well as those of the late Queen 
Mother had also been brought thither in order that the King might 
pay homage before them. A full consideration of the subject of paying 
homage to ancestors will be found in Chapter XIII, and need not, 
therefore, be enlarged upon here. 

After leaving the Tusita Maha Prasada the King and Queen 
retired, accompanied by noble ladies, and this completed the ceremony 
for the day. But the private ceremony of the Assumption of 
the Residence had yet to be performed. It will be considered in 
Chapter VIII. 

13. Special Audiences. 

On the 26th February, at 4 p.m., the King received in audience 
the special envoys (representing foreign powers) and the diplomatic 
corps, who submitted an address of congratulation in the Cakrl 


Palace, after which the King repaired to the Hall of Amarindra, 
where he handed letters patent to three monks, one each from a chief 
section of the Buddhists of Siam, namely the Mahanikaya, the Dharma- 
yutika (reformed sect), and the Peguan, promoting them to the rank 
of abbot, by way of the first act of grace after his Coronation. He 
then received traditional offerings of flowers, incense, and candles 
from members of the Royal Family, and officials of State. Finally, 
the day's proceedings were terminated by a Lord Abbot delivering a 
sermon of benediction. 

Next day there was a similar reception of offerings from officials 
of State in the Hall of Amarindra, where the Supreme Patriarch 
delivered a sermon on the ten virtues of a king. 

Though somewhat modernized, one can discern in these ceremonies 
traces of very ancient ideas. In promoting the abbots the King is 
exercising his newly acquired priestly functions, while the offerings 
made to him on this occasion might be compared to offerings to a deity. 
Sociologically, however, the promotion of the abbots is now only to 
be regarded as a first act of grace, which, correlated with the exercise 
of the royal clemency in releasing a number of prisoners in celebration 
of the Coronation, is valuable as an indication to the people that the 
ceremonial promises are not empty ritual. 


CORONATION (continued) 

The first part of this chapter will be devoted to a detailed study 
of the Siamese Royal Regalia (Frontispiece and PL X). I shall not 
attempt to speculate along the lines of Sir James Frazer l as to whether 
kings were originally evolved from magicians. History only takes us 
back to a time when there were gods, and kings, and priests in India, 
and gives us the early Siamese conception of the king as identical with 
the deity, a stage when religion had already gone far towards supplanting 
magic. I shall only state that if, as Sir James Frazer maintains, the 
evolution of kings from magicians was only one of several ways by which 
the former have been evolved, it seems reasonable to suppose that the 
evolution of regalia from magicians' implements is not the only means 
by which regalia have been developed. At any rate there seems to be 
little magical significance attaching to any of the Siamese regalia at the 
present time, though in the case of the most ancient among them there 
probably was in early times ; while others seem to belong entirely 
to the religious stage ; and others again appear to have once been of 
practical value, and never to have been connected with either religion 
or magic. I shall endeavour to distinguish between these various 
types when we discuss each article of the regalia in turn. 

Whatever the early significance of the regalia, we may be quite 
sure that it is little understood or for one moment considered by, the 
Siamese people, or even by the officials of the Court, who see in them 
merely the bright adjuncts of royalty. Their sociological value is 
indeed, like that of the regalia of European kings of modern times, 
merely to invest the person of the king with the outward brilliance 
of majesty and, thereby, like the ceremonial which accompanies them, 
to impress the people with the respect due to the kingship. 

From the list of Siamese regalia one can pick out five that are 

undoubtedly of great antiquity and can be traced far back in the 

history of India. These five insignia (pancardjakukadhabhanda) are 

mentioned in the Mahdvamsa, 2 and are to be regarded as the classical 

quintette of ancient India. They cannot, however, be traced back to 

Vedic times since there then appear to have been no regalia except the 

bow, which is to-day represented amongst the royal weapons of Siam. 

1 OB. i. 2 If. xi, 28. 



Jiailwuyv l)ept. 


[To face OiL 


But there is also a reference to shoes which were put on after the 
symbolic foray of the Rajasuya. In Cambodia, and also in Burma, 1 
the classical quintette were recognized. 

We will now proceed to the detailed consideration of each article 
of the regalia : 

1. The Great White Umbrella of State? 

I place the White Umbrella first because I believe it to be the 
most ancient symbol of regal authority, vastly older than the Crown 
which has now supplanted it as the most important of the regalia. 
The White Umbrella of State consists of several tiers five for the 
Van Nd, seven for the King before he is fully crowned, and nine 
after he has attained full sovereignty. Similar custom prevailed in 
modern Cambodia and Burma, and, in fact, seems to have been 
common to all the Indianized States. Parasols are indicated on the 
reliefs of the Borobodur in Java, they were used by royalty in Campa, 
and they are represented on the Jdtaka reliefs of the Ananda temple 
at Pagan, Burma. In one of those reliefs (No. 6) the Bodhisattva 
Temiya is reclining on his couch over which is a single-tiered white 
umbrella from which the goddess is seen issuing in order to give 
Temiya advice not to become king. 3 But it is in the bas-reliefs of 
Ankor Vat that we find the greatest profusion of umbrellas. Groslier 4 
delineates a single and a three-tiered umbrella which seem to show 
clearly that Cambodia is the proximate source of the Siamese State 
Umbrella ; and parasols are mentioned in the earliest Cambodian 
inscriptions (seventh century A.D.). 5 

The Pauranic literature of India mentions the White Umbrella 
as one of the ratnas of a king, 6 and in the Niddna-kathd it is referred 
to as one of the regalia of the Buddha in the Tusita Heaven. 7 In the 
Makdvamsa, among numerous other references to the White Umbrella, 
we have a euphemistic description of the throne in the Lohapasada in 
the course of which we note : 

" A white parasol with a coral foot, resting on mountain crystal 
and having a silver staff, shone forth over the throne." 8 

This, together with a reference in Jdtaka 415 to " a throne with the 
white umbrella erected over it ", are the earliest specific records known 

1 Harvey, History of Burma, p. 325. 

2 The Siamese terms for this and the other articles of the regalia have been given 
in the table on p. 83. 

8 The idea of a protective genie residing in the State Umbrella is also known in Siam. 

4 Gr., chap, vii, Figs. 48d and/. Gr., pp. 41 sq. 

ERE. art. " Abhiseka ". 

' Rhys Davids, Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 155. 8 3f . xxvii. 36. 


to me of the State Umbrella being placed over the throne exactly in 
the same way as it is to-day in Siam. But the following passage, 
also from the Makavamsa, 1 is of greater importance for our inquiry : 

" When he had caused the state parasol of his uncles to be brought 
and purified in a natural pond that is here (i.e. Anuradhapura), 
Pandukabhaya kept it for himself and with the water of that same pond 
he solemnized his own consecration." 

Here we note the great importance assigned to the Umbrella in the 
consecration, whereas there is no mention whatever of a crown. 
Considering this in conjunction with Jataka 539, " Give the royal 
umbrella up to me or give battle," can there be any doubt that the 
Umbrella was the pre-eminent symbol of royal authority in ancient 
India ? 

From Ceylon it is an easy matter to trace the Umbrella back to 
the time of Asoka in the third century B.C., the umbrella-crowned 
dagabas of Anuradhapura being obviously copied from those erected 
in India by the great Buddhist Emperor. And we can trace the 
Umbrella back to a vastly more remote period according to an 
interesting article by A. H. Longhurst on "The Influence of the 
Umbrella in Indian Architecture," 2 from which I make the following 
extracts : 

In the earliest times the umbrella was a symbol of authority 
and power. It first appears in the wall pictures of the Egyptians 
and later in the bas-reliefs of the Assyrians. The Greeks borrowed 
from earlier empires this mark of elevated rank. It is most important 
in Asia where it is not only a symbol of rank but also of religion. 
This is particularly so in Burma, China, Japan and Siam the pagoda 
being derived from it but the idea originally came to them from 
India. The primary idea is derived from a shady tree (compare the 
primitive umbrellas of some modern peasants) and it derived its 
sanctity from its resemblance to certain sacred trees, the sal and bo 
tree, which are frequently depicted on the bas-reliefs of Sanchi and 
Bharhut and are a relic of primitive tree- worship. 3 The idea as an 
emblem of sovereignty probably came from Persia owing to the 
similarity of those of the Assyrian and Persian reliefs. Indian stupas 
of the Asokan type (3rd century B.C.) were crowned with umbrellas. 
The earliest may have been the actual umbrella of Asoka placed 
on the monument as a symbol of his royal protection and other stupas 
were doubtless crowned with the umbrellas of other devotees. As 
these would quickly perish when exposed to the weather the idea arose 
of crowning the stupas with more permanent materials wood, stone 
and bronze. The reduplication of the umbrellas probably arose 
1 Jf . x, 77. 2 Journal of Indian Art and Industry, vol. xvi. 

3 This is an unfortunate example to give as it is now generally accepted that the 
bo trees depicted on Sanchi and Bharhut are merely symbols of the enlightenment 
of the Buddha. Nevertheless, tree-worship undoubtedly existed in early times, in 
the sense that the spirits in the trees were propitiated with offerings. 


through other chiefs placing their umbrellas on top of those of former 
protectors. The model stupas on the Sanchi bas-reliefs show examples 
not only of single umbrellas but also of two and even three apparently 
on the same handle, as in the modern umbrellas of China and Burma 
(and Siam). 

It seems probable, therefore, that we can explain the multi-tiered 
umbrellas of Siam on the theory of the accumulation of honour. Just 
as the greater would be the honour to a relic the larger the number 
of royal umbrellas that had been placed over it, so in later times a 
king might seek to augment his dignity by multiplying the tiers of 
the umbrella above his head. But if the umbrella was originally a tree, 
it seems to me that it first symbolized spiritual protection (as the tree 
symbolizes physical protection), and only later came to represent 
authority. Evidence for this is that to this day whenever the King 
of Siam goes out in state a single-tiered umbrella is held over his head, 
the sun's rays being perhaps considered especially dangerous to sacred 
persons ; that the Great White Umbrella is supposed to be inhabited 
by a protective genie ; and possibly in the statement in the Mahd- 
vamsa l that " the thera Indagutta created, to ward off Mara, a 
parasol of copper that he made great as the universe ". 

The White Umbrella perhaps stands out alone among the institu- 
tions of modern Siam, in that we seem to have definitely enough 
evidence to enable us to trace it back to ancient Egyptian times ; a fact 
which certainly makes one wonder to what conclusions we should be led 
could we but have as much evidence as to the origin of many another 
feature of Siamese culture. It is not for me to attempt to dispute or 
confirm the evidence adduced by Longhurst ; I can only add one 
interesting point: Neither in the Aitareya nor in the Satapatha 
Brd/imana is there any mention of the umbrella in connection with 
the abhiseka therein described, and therefore it seems certain that this 
article of the regalia was not known in India in Vedic times. It 
might be about the time of Asoka that it was introduced from Persia. 
However that may be, the very fact that the Umbrella can be traced 
so far back corroborates my contention, based on evidence already 
adduced from the Mahdvamsa and the Jdtaka, that it is the earliest 
and originally the most important of the classical quintette. But, 
just as in India it was preceded by the bow, so in other parts of the 
world the earliest regalia were probably warlike weapons. 

2. The Great Crown of Victory. 

The essential part of the Siamese crown (mahkut) may be described 
as a cone of several stages terminating in a tapering spire. The whole 

1 M . xxxi, 85. 


crown is highly ornamented and is surmounted by a small tiered 
umbrella. The crowns worn by Siamese actresses impersonating kings 
are similar to the royal crowns, while those worn by Ravana, Sugrlva, 
and other important personages in the Siamese drama l differ only in 
matters of detail ; and the modern royal crown of Cambodia has the 
same form as the Siamese. 

The feature that strikes one most forcibly about the Siamese crown 
is its marked difference in shape from the world-wide conception of 
a crown the point above the head being its most important part 
rather than, as is usually the case, the diadem around the brow. My 
deduction from this is that the crown was originally conceived by the 
early Thai and the Khmers as a helmet of definitely practical protective 
value ; and a king's helmet would at first only differ from that of an 
ordinary warrior by reason of its more elaborate ornamentation. The 
shape of this helmet-crown would largely depend on the method of 
dressing the hair. Now we know that the Thai, while yet under 
Khmer domination, arranged their plaited hair in three or four stages 
piled up on the head and ornamented by five rows of chaplets, as 
shown by a bas-relief at Ankor Vat where a Thai leader and several 
of his warriors are shown, identified by the inscription : " These are 
the Syam Kut." 2 For such a mode of hair-dressing a tall spired helmet 
or crown would be necessary, and would be adopted by the Thai when 
they obtained their freedom. On the other hand, the reliefs of Ankor 
Vat and Ankor Thom show that the Khmer aristocracy, as well 
as the Brahmans, wore the chignon, 3 the elongate crown being 
unnecessary. Groslier says of the Khmer crown : 

" During the six centuries of the classic period the royal crown 
is conical, squat, of from three to seven stages, set on a stiff head- 
dress, decorated and encircled by a band, and not once does the point, 
which surmounts the modern crown, appear, added to the three-staged 
cone on the bas-reliefs. It is necessary, therefore, to look for this 
modification after the 12th century, which is impossible in Cambodia 
since stone construction ceases at that period. On the oldest modern 
wood carvings where one finds mukuta, the ancient cone is already 
transformed. It is therefore between the 13th and 16th-17th centuries 
that the change occurred. Now we believe the origin to be recent. 
It has come from Siam because the mokoth, such as it is to-day, is 
modelled in the votive offerings in baked earth found in the ruined 
monuments of Sukhodaya and Svargaloka (end of 14th century). This 
mokoth is both the Siamese and the modern Cambodian crown to-day." * 

It appears to me, therefore, that the Thai, on attaining independ- 
ence, elongated the Khmer crown and increased the distance between 

1 An adaptation of the Indian epic Ramayana 

A. iii, p. 263. 3 Gr., p. 58. 4 Gr., pp. 62, 63. 


each stage. This was a purely practical modification, rendered necessary 
by their mode of dressing the hair, and it does not explain the long 
tapering spire which completes the crown. Groslier seems reluctant 
to give the Siamese the credit for the invention of this feature, but he 
does not make any useful suggestion as to what might be its origin. 
My opinion is that we must turn to Ceylon for the elucidation of the 

We have seen that the votive tablets of the Sukhodaya period 
prove that the change had come about by the thirteenth century, and 
as this was the period during which the Siamese kings were actively 
engaged in imitating the splendour of Parakrama Bahu, we might 
expect to find Sinhalese influence in the Siamese crown. Indeed, 
Prince Damrong recently remarked to me that there is a relief in a 
certain temple at Sukhodaya which definitely proves this to be the 
case. I have not seen this relief, nor do I know the exact nature 
of the evidence. If my hypothesis that the tapering spire has come 
from Ceylon be correct, we should naturally suspect Buddhist influence, 
and I believe the modern Siamese crown to be a comparatively late 
attempt to combine the purely practical helmet-crown with the 
Buddhist sirotama, or flame-shaped glory often represented in Buddhist 
images and paintings, and mentioned in the Makdvamsa. 1 In support 
of this theory there is the following very interesting passage in the 
Siamese Life of Buddha : 

"On his head there is a sirorot, like a glorious angelic crown, 
in imitation of which all the kings of the world have made crowns 
a sign of royal dignity/' 2 

In concluding this historical analysis we may note that the Indo- 
Javanese art of the Srivijaya period, which spread over Cambodia 
from about the seventh to the ninth centuries A.D., is characterized by 
images in which the hair is dressed high and the brows are encircled 
by a diadem. This is also found in some images of the earlier part of 
the Ankor period, and it evidently spread from Java (where we see 
such forms on the reliefs of the Borobodur) and was originally derived 
from India, where it first appears in the Epics, being unknown in Vedic 
times. We thus have the world- wide conception of the crown as a 
diadem encircling the head in early times in Cambodia, where it was 
later superseded by the Khmer helmet-crown. From this the Siamese 
crown was derived in the thirteenth century with the addition of the 
Buddhist glory. 

It will be convenient to mention here two other Siamese royal 

1 M . v. 92 : The Buddha " adorned with the crown of flames ". 

2 Alabaster, Wheel of the Law, p. 115. 


crowns. These are : (1) the Kathina Crown (Brah jatd mahd kathina) 
used in former days on occasions of the presentation of robes at the 
royal monasteries, and dating from the reign of Rama I ; and (2) the 
Personal (or Lesser) Kathina Crown (Brah jatd mahd hithina noy) made 
severally for each individual sovereign and worn during his State 
Progresses through the city and on the river, as well as on certain later 
occasions during the reign, such as special Kathim presentations. 

There are also three Royal Hats (brab mala) which are for use in 
going to and from the scene of ceremony. Bruguiere, 1 in an account 
of the coronation procession of Rama III, mentions the king's wearing 
a broad-brimmed hat of black felt, similar to those royal hats worn 
to-day, but to his description may be added the fact that a feather 
is worn stuck in the side, and the summit is ornamented by a small 
replica of a Siamese crown. These hats are known to be of European 
origin, having been derived from the Court of Louis XIV in the 
seventeenth century. 

3. The Sword of Victory. 

This is considered to be one of the foremost of the Siamese regalia. 
It was brought from Cambodia in 1783, and is supposed to be an emblem 
of sovereignty of the ancient Khmer empire, perhaps dating from the 
tenth century A.D. It is thus similar to the famous Brah Kharga, so 
jealously guarded by the modern Bakus of Phnompenh, and which is 
reputed to have been handed down from Jayavarman II (A.D. 802-69). 
The stele of Vat Mahadhatu, 2 dating from the reign of Dharmaraja I, 
records that a similar sword named Jayas*rJ was given to the founder 
of the kingdom of Sukhodaya by a king of Arikor Thorn ; and two 
later Sukhodaya inscriptions 3 mention this sword among the regalia. 

Possibly the idea of the sword as a royal emblem was preceded by 
the similar use of a more primitive indigenous weapon in Cambodia. 
This seems to be the opinion of Aymonier 4 who, in the course of his 
description of a king represented on a relief at Ankor Vat, says : 

" The king, seated on an elephant, is armed with a phgak resting 
on the shoulder, which shows that at this time the Brah Kharga, 
now considered as the palladium of the empire, had not yet replaced 
in esteem the old cutting weapon of Cambodia." 

The Khmers must have derived the idea of the Sacred Sword from 
India, for, as we have seen, it is mentioned in the Mahdvamsa as one 
of the classical quintette of India. But though it is not known to have 

I Loc. cit. 2 Coedds, Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, No. ii, p. 63. 

II Ibid., Nos. iv and v. 4 A. iii, pp. 257 sq. 


been regarded as a royal emblem in Vedic times, the idea must be 
extremely ancient, for : 

" The girding of the new monarch with a sword is a practically 
universal feature of coronation ceremonies. It is a reminiscence of 
the days when the king was not merely the titular but the actual 
war-chief of his people." 1 

4. The Slippers. 

In Old Siam shoes were not worn by the common people, and those 
who wore them had to remove them as a sign of respect as soon 
as they entered the precincts of the palace. They were probably 
regarded as suitable only for royalty. This was also the case in 
Cambodia, where shoes were probably of great rarity, and considered 
as sacred, since, though they are mentioned in early Chinese texts 
and in inscriptions, they are not figured on the bas-reliefs. 2 The 
same view was probably current in Ancient India. The earliest 
reference to shoes in Indian literature is that in the &atapatha Brdh- 
'numa, where it is mentioned that they were put on after the symbolic 
foray of the Rajasuya : 

" He then puts on shoes of boar's skin. Now the gods once put 
a pot of ghee on the fire. Therefrom a boar was produced : hence the 
boar is fat, for it was produced from ghee. Hence also cows readily 
take to a boar ; it is indeed their own essence (life-sap, blood) they 
are readily taking to. Thus he firmly establishes himself in the 
essence of the cattle : therefore he puts on shoes of boar's skin." 3 

Though their sanctity is evident from the above, I do not think 
that the evidence is sufficient for us to regard the shoes as having 
been considered as regalia in Vedic times. In Epic times, however, 
there seems to be no doubt of it ; for Rama, who had retired to a 
forest life, sent his shoes to represent him and govern in his place, 
while, in Jdtaka No. 461, we have the same story with the following 
interesting addition : 

" The courtiers placed these straw slippers upon the royal throne 
when they judged a case. If the cause was decided wrongly, the 
slippers beat upon each other, and at that time it was examined again ; 
when the decision was right, the slippers lay quiet." 

Here we seem to have traced the slippers back to a time when they 
had a magical significance, almost to a time when (some) kings were 
magicians and their regalia magicians' implements. 

1 ERE. x, pp. 632-9. 

2 Gr., p. 53 sq. 

3 Satapatha Brahma^a, v, 4, 3, 19, in SBE. xli, pp. 102 sq. 


5. The Fan. 

This is the last of the five chief regalia of ancient India. It comes 
to Siam from Cambodia as is evident from those figured on the bas- 
reliefs of Ankor Vat, and these were obviously made in exactly the 
same way as the modern Siamese royal fan, i.e. from a palm leaf 
bent at right angles on its stalk. The fan, as an adjunct of royalty, 
is associated with the idea of coolness and sublime comfort attributed 
to divine kings, especially in hot countries. 

6. The Whisk of the Yak's Tail and the Whisk of the White Elephant's 

The former is an extremely ancient emblem, and seems sometimes 
to have replaced the fan as one of the primary quintette. 1 As chowries 
or fly- whisks (Sanskrit, cdmara) they are mentioned in Pauranic 
accounts as one of the royal ratnas requisite to a king, and were 
evidently associated with the same idea of divine comfort, as was 
the fan. 2 Yak-tail whisks are mentioned in the Mahavamsa 3 and in 
Jataka No. 532 as emblems of sovereignty. Nuniz (about A.D. 1535) 
mentions that in Vijayanagar yak-tail whisks were the highest marks 
of distinction conferred by the king on the nobles. These emblems 
became common in all the Indianized States, and are frequently 
delineated on the bas-reliefs of Ankor and Borobodur, as well as 
being mentioned in Khmer inscriptions. The material from which 
these chowries were made seems to have been chosen on account of 
their supposed auspicious nature. But from the whisks mentioned 
in the Mahdvamsa, Jataka. and Cambodian inscriptions being specific- 
ally described as of yak's tail, whereas there is, so far as I am aware, 
no classical mention of the White Elephant's Whisk, it seems to me 
that the use of the latter is a late, probably Buddhist, modification. 

7. The Sceptre and the Stick. 

These appear to be two forms of the same emblem. The sceptre 
is present in the regalia of Siam, Burma, and Cambodia ; and Knox, 
who wrote in 1681, may refer to a sceptre of the King of Ceylon in 
the following passage : 

" Commonly he holdeth in his hand a small cane, painted of divers 
colours, and towards the lower end set around about with such stones 
as he hath and pleaseth, with a head of gold." 

But as I can find no specific mention of the Sceptre in ancient Indian 
literature, I doubt if it were ever regarded by Indian monarchs as 
such an important article of the regalia as it was in Europe. It may, 

1 Harvey, History of Burma, p. 325. 8 ERE: art. " Abhiseka." 3 M. xxxi, 78. 


however, correspond to the Brahmanic baton or the thunderbolt 
(Vajra) of Indra for 

" the sceptre as a symbol of authority is world- wide. In the form of 
club, baton or wand its origin may date back to the stone age/ 1 1 

8. The Personal Sword. 

This sword is borne after the King of Siam on almost every occasion, 
even prior to Coronation Day, by the Steward of the Household. 
It may correspond to the golden sword which Cheou Ta-kouan, the 
Chinese traveller who visited Ankor in A.D. 1296, states was worn 
by the king whenever he went out of his palace. It seems to me that 
at that late period in the history of the Khmers, the Brah Kharga had 
achieved such sanctity as to have lost its practical use. The Personal 
Sword was probably invented to take its place, and now, in Siam, we 
see it in turn losing its practical use and passing into the regalia. 

9. Tfo Brahman Girdle. 

This is a traditional Attribute of Siva, and its presentation to 
the King symbolizes the merging of the god into the personality of 
the King. 

10. The other Girdks and the Rings. 

These were no doubt formerly amulets, especially the Girdle of the 
Nine Gems, symbolizing the planets ; but they have now degenerated 
into ornaments. Similar ornaments were worn by the Khmer kings 2 ; 
and in Jatakas 479 and 487 and also in the Ramayana, signet rings 
are mentioned as being used as tokens. 

11. -The Receptack, the Betel Nut Set, the Water Urn, and the Libation 

These are all articles of personal use which in Indo-China are 
regarded as insignia of rank, not only by the king himself, but also 
by officials to whom similar articles were presented by the king on 
the occasion of their promotion. The regalia of the Alompra dynasty 
of Burma 3 are remarkable on account of the inclusion of a great 
variety of these personal utensils such as pickled-tea bowls, betel-boxes, 
tea-pot, water vessels, water-pot stands, and scent box ; and on the 
reliefs of Ankor Vat a number of similar utensils are represented. 4 
No doubt the custom of regarding such articles as emblems of rank 
was derived from ancient India ; but perhaps it would be going too 
far to interpret the Libation Vessel as being the descendant of one 

1 ERE. x, pp. 632 sq. * Gr., chap. vii. 

3 Indian Antiquary, 1902. 4 Gr., Fig. 77. 


of the golden vessels filled with water, honey, milk, clarified butter, 
and udumbara shoots, which were regarded as a necessity in the 
Pauranic abhiseka. 1 

12. The Golden Tablet of Style and Title. 

A consideration of this important object of the regalia will 
necessarily require considerable space, as it will be convenient here not 
only to describe the special ceremony at which the tablet is inscribed 
(PL XI) but also to discuss the nature of the Style and Title itself. 

On the last occasion the preparation for the inscription took 
place on 3rd February (i.e. twenty-two days before actual coronation), 
this preparation consisting of the holding of a service of benediction 
(svdt brah buddha mantra) by Buddhist priests. Next day the inscrip- 
tion (caru'k brah subarna pata) was made on a gold tablet by a royal 
scribe in the Chapel Royal in the presence of the Buddhist monks who 
had officiated the previous day, and of a deputy of the King. The 
ceremony of inscribing the golden plate with the Style and Title was 
performed as follows : 

The royal scribes were seated at low tables in the Chapel Royal 
with the sacred sincana thread stretched around them to ward off 
evil influences. The royal astrologer (Brafiyd Horn) beat the Gong 
of Victory at 10.34 a.m. as a signal that the auspicious moment for 
commencing the inscription had arrived. One scribe engraved the 
Subarnapata, while another inscribed the Royal Horoscope (brah jdt 
brah janam barsd) on another gold plate. The chapter of monks 
recited stanzas of victory; the Brahmans blew the conches and 
played the other ceremonial instruments all the time that the work 
of inscribing the plates went on. When this was completed, the 
Brahmans offered lustral water in conches and the Hord anointed the 
gold plates. The Brahmans then rolled up the Subarnapafa in red silk 
tied with a silken thread of five colours. Then they placed it in a gold 
tube, sealed it up, and placed it in an embroidered bag. Similarly, the 
Hord rolled up the Horoscope and placed it in a gold tube in an 
embroidered bag. Both were then placed in a golden box embossed 
with floral designs, which was placed on a gold plate of two tiers, which 
in turn was placed on a gold stand while the Brahmans and officials 
performed the man dian 2 rite around it. The golden box was finally 

1 ERE. art. "Abhiseka ". 

8 This is the light-waving rite frequently performed in Siamese ceremonies, the 
Brahmans and others passing from hand to hand tapers, fixed in lenticular holders, 
around the person or thing it is desired to honour, and fanning the smoke towards 
that person or thing. It is a form of pradafaina intended to ward off evil influences. 
It is well known in India, being first mentioned in the tfatapatha Brahma^a, i, 2, 2, 13. 
See p. 107 f.n. and Ge. (1), p. 159. 


deposited with the other regalia on the altar in the Chapel Royal until 
21st February, when it was carried in state on a palanquin to be placed 
on an altar in the Baisala Hall. 1 

Though inscribed gold plates are mentioned in Jdtakas 440, 482, 
491, and others, I am informed by Mr. Sastri, of the Royal Institute, 
Bangkok, that no mention of the term subarnapata occurs in Indian 
literature, and it is, therefore, very remarkable that it should have 
been preserved in Siam. But the custom of kings changing their 
names on accession is a very venerable one in India. Thus in the 
Vedic Rdjasuya : 

'* He (the purohiia) then hails him (the king) as one bearing 
auspicious names " Much worker, better worker, more worker '. 
Whoever bears such names speaks auspiciously even with a human 
voice." 2 

To this the translator appends a note explaining that the meaning of 
these titles is *' incrcaser of the prosperity of himself and his people ". 
The changing of the name symbolizes the rebirth of the newly- 
consecrated king, and his identification with the deity. 

The same custom seems to have become established in all 
the Indianized States. In Ceylon we have the statement in the 
Mahdvamsa 3 that : 

"" Suvannapindatissa was his name before his reign, but he was 
named Suratissa after the beginning of the reign." 

Likewise in Campa : 

tw There seems to have been a fairly general practice among kings 
of Champa to take a new name called Abhisekanama at the time of 
^he coronation. Thus Prasastadharma, son of Rudravarman, took 
the name Sri Sambhuvarman at the time of his coronation." 4 

In modern Cambodia the ceremony of inscribing the royal style 
and title is carried out as in Siam, and that the ancient Khmer kings 
changed their personal names on accession to one ending in varman is 
exemplified by the following seventh century inscription : 

"He is the son of Sri- Vira varman, and who is not inferior in 
power though the youngest brother of Sri-Bhavavarman, he, named 
8ri-Citrasena ; who possesses all the marks of the great, has chosen 
the name of Sri-Mahendra varman at his coronation." 5 

1 Most of the above information concerning the ceremony of inscription is derived 
from " Programme of the Coronation, B.E. 2468 " (i.e. Source No. 1). There is a 
short account of the inscription of Rama IV's titles in Siam Repository, Oct., 1871 ; 
and the Hwtory of the facond Reign (p. 22) gives a brief description of the ceremony 
at the coronation of Rama TI. All these accounts are substantially in agreement. 

2 tiatopatha Bmhmcwa, v, 4, 4, 14, in SHE. xli, p. 110. 

* M. xxi, 9. * Majumdar, op. cit., chap. 14. 5 BEFEO., t. iii, p. 445. 


In later days the Cambodian kings possessed a string of titles. 
A modern inscription of Ahkor Vat refers to a king who reigned in 
A.D. 1747 as Samtec Brah Pada Paramanatha Brah Pada Parama- 
pubitra, " The lord, the sacred feet, Paramanatha, the sacred feet, 
the supreme purification " ; and almost the same titles are used of a 
king mentioned in a thirteenth century inscription at Ankor Vat, 
and believed to refer to the founder of that temple. 1 Aymonier 
believes that these multiple royal titles probably originated in the 
thirteenth century, and mark the commencement of the period of 
decadence. 2 

We have practically the same story in Burma : In the Mon inscrip- 
tion of Myanpagan, Pagan, 3 on face C, the king is referred to by his 
usual name as " Sri Tribhuwanaditiyadhammaraja ", but on side D 
this is lengthened to " Sri Tribhuwanadityadhammarajarajadhira- 
japaramiswarabalacakkrawar ", meaning " supreme king of kings, 
overlord, mighty universal monarch ". And the last king of Burma 
was known as Athet-u-san-paing-than-ashin, " Lord of the life, head 
and hair of all human beings." 4 

In one of the Siamese inscriptions of the Sukhodaya period, 5 it is 
stated that the king changed his title on his accession from Brana 
Lu'daiyaraja to rlsuryavams"a Mahadharmarajadhiraja, but this is 
a comparatively modest title to the long string of Sanskrit epithets 
expressive of divine majesty that was accumulated during the Ayudhya 
period, and revived and even extended by the sovereigns of Bangkok. 
Thus the full style of the first two kings of the present dynasty was 
as follows : 

" Brah pada samtec brah paramarajadhirajaramadhipati srisin- 
draparamamahacakiabartirajadhipatindra dharanindradhiraja rata- 
nakasabhasakravansa angaparamadhipesra tribhuvanetravarnayaka 
tilakaratanara j j atia j a vasarayasamudayataromanta sakalacakravala- 
dhipendra suriyendradhipatindra hariharindradhatadhipatl 3risuvi- 
pulyagunoknitha rdathiramesvaramahanta paramadharmikrajadhira- 
jatejojaiya brahmadebatidebanarpatindra bhumindraparamadhipesra 
lokjethavisuddhi ratanamakutaprahdeagata mahabuddhankurapara- 
mapabitra." 6 

And in the course of the next hundred years the royal style 
continued to expand until it reached the dimensions of that of the 
present king, which runs as follows : 

1 A. ii, p. 258. 2 A. in, p. 281. 

3 Epigraphia JBirmanica, vol. i, pt. 2. 4 ERE. art. " Burma ". 

5 Coed&s, Inscriptions de Sukkodaya, No. iv, p. 84. 

6 History of the Second Reign, p. 21. 


" Brah pada samtec brah paramindramahaprahjadhipak mahan- 
tatejantilakramadhipatl debyaparlyamaharajaravivans'a asamabhina- 
bans*ablrahkasatra purusaratanarajanikarotama caturantaparama- 
mahacakrabartirajasankasa ubhatosujatasams'uddhageralinicakrlpara- 
manatha ciilalankaranarajavarankuTa mahamakutavansavirasura- 
jisatha rajadharmadasabidhautakafasatanipuna atulyakrsatabhinl- 
rahara purabadhikarasusadhitadharhnayalaksanavicitrasauva bhag- 
yasarbanga mahajanotamafigamandasandhimatasamantasamagam 
paramarajasambhara dibyadebavatara baisalkiaratiguna agulaya- 
saktiteja sarbadeves*apriyanuraksa mangalalagananemahvay sukho- 
dayadharmaraja abhinauvasilapasu'ksatejanavudha vijayayuddha- 
sasatrakosala vimalanarayabinita sucaritasamacara bhadrabhjianana- 
prahtibhanasundra prahvarasasanopasatamabhaka mulamukha- 
matayavaranayakamahasenani sarajanavibayuhayodhaboyamacara 
paramajesthasodrasamamata ekarajayasasadhigamaparamarajasam- 
pati nabapatalasevatachtitratichatra srtratanoplaksana mahapara- 
raarajabhisekabhisikta sarbadasadigavijitatejojaiya saklamahaisvara 
yam ah asvamindra mahes varamahindramaharamadhira j a varotama 
paramanathajatiajanyasraya buddhaditrairatnasraijaraksa visisata- 
sakatoagranaresvaradhipati mettakrunasltlahardaya anopamaiya- 
bunayakara sakalabaisalamaharastaradhipatindra paramindradhar- 
raikamaharajadhirtija parananathapabitra brah pak klau cau yu hua/' 

Our study of the royal style and title has revealed two main under- 
lying ideas which are of considerable sociological interest. In the 
first place we have the substitution of the king's personal name, which 
was taboo after accession, by a long string of titles expressive of the 
king's majesty and of his identification with the deity. These titles 
were not understood by the common people who used such simple 
terms as Cau Jivitra (Lord of Lives), but they probably always knew 
that some such titles did exist, while the fact that they were appended 
to all official proclamations performed the valuable function of 
impressing the dignity of the kingship upon the literate and official 
classes. That the actual fact of changing the royal appellation meant 
something in the estimation of the people is borne out by the custom 
which prevails to this day of even the humblest officials changing their 
names on promotion. 

Secondly, it is to be remarked that the evolution of a long string 
of euphemistic titles seems to be late, and characteristic of a decadent 
period, when the real power of the king was on the wane, and it was 
necessary to support it by the invention of haughty titles. But it 
must not be forgotten that other factors have been brought to bear on 
the situation, and that with the rejuvenation of the modern kingdom, 


such titles are little more than a relic of Old Siam, a shortened form 
having, in fact, been sanctioned by the late king. 

13. The Eight Weapons of Sovereignty (Brah sen asatdvudha) (PL XIT). 

It is possible that the Bow represents the oldest article of the 
Indian regalia, antedating the classical quintette and receiving mention 
in the Satapatha Brahmana, while the Trident and Discus are, of course, 
attributes of the gods iva and Visnu, and symbolize the king's 
identification with those gods. On the other hand, many of the other 
weapons seem to be of purely Siamese historical interest, and supposed 
to date from some national event, especially in connection with King 
NaresVara (A.D. 1590-1610). It was he who killed the Prince of Pegu 
with the Long Handled Sword in a fight on elephant back, and it was 
also he who fired the Gun of the Saton across the river of that name 
at a Burmese pursuing column, killing the leader with the first shot. 
Actually, however, I am informed that all these weapons are reproduc- 
tions made in Bangkok, the originals having been lost at the time of 
the fall of Ayudhya. But this is not realized by the masses, and the 
replicas no doubt fulfil their sociological function of inspiring the 
people with a respect for their historic past and for the glory of kings, 
just as well as ever did the originals. 


This will be a suitable place in which to consider the Coronation 
State Progresses, because, like the Regalia, many of the features of 
the processions are of great historical interest. The first State Progress 
of King Prajadhipok took place on 1st March, 1926, on which occasion 
he was borne in procession on a palanquin through the streets of the 
capital, and paid his respects at the principal shrines, namely, the 
Pavaranivesa and Jetavana monasteries, where the monks were 
waiting to receive him. On entering these temples the King paid 
homage before the principal images and before the urns containing 
the remains of the late Prince Patriarch. He also offered a gorgeous 
robe to each of the images. The second State Progress took place by 
water on 3rd March, the procession of state barges making its way 
to Vat Arun, a monastery on the west bank of the river, where the 
King paid homage and made religious offerings as before. On both 
occasions the King wore the Personal Kathina Crown, except when 
entering and leaving a temple on foot, and when embarking in the 
royal barges, at which times he wore a Royal Hat. 

These State Progresses are a modification of a very ancient ritual. 
Formerly they consisted only of a Progress (known as Liap Mo'an) 


[l*/mfo , Xtttte Runways jP 


I To fate 


around the city, without any visits to the temples. This latter was 
an innovation introduced by that pious Buddhist monarch, Rama IV. 
Formerly the Progress enabled the people to have a view, albeit a 
limited one on account of the lattice fences, of their new monarch in 
full regal state. The later modification possessed the additional 
sociological value of showing the King to the people as a supporter of 
the national religion. But the Liap Mo ah has a far older significance, 
though perhaps this was long since forgotten by the common people. 
It was performed rightwise and it was, in fact, the ancient Hindu 
rite of pradaksina. According to the Agni Purd^a and the Manasara. 
the coronation was concluded by the king riding pradaksina-wisv 
around his city 1 ; and Jdtaka 472 mentions the rightwise procession 
of a king around his city ; but the rite was not known in Vedic times. 
In Siam to-day the Progress by Land is a true pradaksina, the King 
keeping his right shoulder to the Grand Palace, but the Progress by 
Water is not. It seems that this rightwise circumambulation of the 
King around the city represents the path of the sun, and is important 
evidence in favour of the solar origin of kings. 2 

1 ERE. art. " AbhwLa ". 

2 This being our first mention of the rite of circumambulation, which we shall 
frequently come across in other Siamese ceremonies, it may be convenient to quote 
here a few extracts from Hastings' E-n cyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (art. " Circum- 
ambulation "), in order to explain its significance in ancient India: "The custom 
is observed, \\ ith a religious or magical signification, among the most diverse peoples, 
particularly among the Indo-Europeans. In India, the Satapatha Brahmana enjoins 
walking round the offering, holding a burning coal in the hand. The Grhya Sutra* 
require the young Brahman at the time of his being initiated, to drive three times 
round the site, sprinkling it \\ith water, and repeating the verse of the Rig-Veda, 
4 Waters, ye are wholesome.' Among marriage ceremonies the Laws of Manu order 
the bride to pass three times round the domestic hearth ; it is the seventh step in 
this walk that makes the union irrevocable. C'ircumambulation also figured in the 
funeral ceremonies and the sacrifices to the Pitris. The Mafia Pannibbana Sutta tells 
that the pyre on which lay the body of Buddha took fire of its own accord when the 
500 disciples talked round it three times. Even at the present day, for the Hindus, 
circumambulation round certain sacred spots hat, the effect of blotting out sins. It 
was the same with the Buddhists who, long before our epoch, had constructed round 
their stupas, or eminences containing relics, circular galleries for the circumambulation 
of pilgrims. ... It is a rite intended to ward off sinister influences, in the interest 
either of those who perform the circumambulation or of the person or thing placed 
at the centre. ... It is usually only regarded as bringing good fortune when performed 
towards the right, which is called by the Brahmans pradaknna. The opposite process 
{Sanskrit, praaarvya) is considered of ill omen. . . . Pradakftina represents the daily 
march of the sun, which in our hemisphere rises in the east, passes thence to the 
south, and sets in the west. This is what Brahman ritual tells us clearly : ' While 
the Brahmans perform the pradaksina,' says the Satapatha Brahmana, ' they think, 
sunwise this sacred work of ours will be accomplished, and therefore they again 
walk thrice round sunvuse.' It may be asked whether in the same way the treble 
repetition of the circuit is not connected with the traditional three steps of Visnu." 


The royal procession of King Prajadhipok's Progress by Land 
(PL XIII) was constituted as follows : 

( Khapvaranadaharpak) 

A number of units representing the various arms of the modern army, established 

on European lines. 

(Khaprarat ajixriyayaxa ) 

A Nobleman A Nobleman g 

Flags Metal Drums Metal Drums Flags $ 

'g Silver War Drums g. 

| * Drum Major g g 

< ]J Gold War Drums 2 8 

g -8 Herald Trumpets JTJ 3, 3 

g g Small Bugles | & 

S ^.3 Master of Ceremonial Instruments ^.g* jjjf 

+ .-g Brahmans blowing conch shells H '* > 

r *K -S Inspector of Instruments <3 <1 2. 

2 || || 

^ c M j Pages bearing Royal Weapons * g"- O ^ 

* 1 ^ ?' 3 i 

W) ** M Grand Umbrellas of Ceremony g P* g^ f ^ 

S'| ^ g Signal Stick S, 3 S-l 

W xi > Signal Instrument ^ : |' p* 

a -?S " W 2. 

g g g Monkey Standard Garuda Standard f g Q 

5 SS (dhanjaya krahpi dhvj) (dhan jaya garudha bdha) ^ ? 8 

^& ^ & 

"5* A Supporters of H.M. : * Supporters of H.M. : JT tft 

"o "gJS Seven Lords Lieu- Royal Golden Seven Lords Lieu- | g 

2 g g tenant in single file Palanquin tenant in single file " T 

^ (aides-de-camp) (aides-de-camp) g^ n 

o - 1 

.2 Sunshade (pan brah stay) 3 

1 Fan (bat pok), and g 

g Umbrella (brah klat) o 

Escort of Chamberlains bearing Royal Escort of 
King Cuja- Paraphernalia (kruan sun) King Ouja- 
lankarana's Reserve Chair of State lankarana's 

Bodyguards The Master of the Horse Bodyguards 

Royal Chargers 

Military and Naval Units and Bands 

It is the Royal Party that focusses our attention, and we need not 
give further consideration to the modern military and naval units, 
except to say that they are sociologically important in that they 


perhaps impress the ignorant masses with the might of the Government 
just as much as does the brilliance of the royal party. 

The constitution of this central body no doubt follows closely the 
arrangement in force in the days when Ayudhya was capital ; and 
that almost every feature in it was derived from the Khmers is evident 
when one compares it with' the coronation procession of King Sisowath 
(1906), 1 and with those depicted on the bas-reliefs of Ankor Vat 
(eleventh century A.D.). 2 In the modern Cambodian royal procession 
we find ceremonial instruments, processional umbrellas, state umbrella, 
sunshade and fan, noblemen supporting the king, and the royal 
palanquin. We notice, however, a few differences : the presence in 
the Cambodian procession of an amazon guard from the inner palace, 
an institution abolished in Siam with the harem ; the inclusion of 
elephants, a mode of royal progression which was never popular in 
Bangkok, and is used nowadays only when the King visits the North, 
where the elephant is still the traditional royal mount ; and, finally, 
the presence of a chariot which is a typically Khmer form of royal 
vehicle. The Cambodian king, indeed, halts three times in his pradak- 
sina circuit of the city. Each of these halts is at one of the cardinal 
points, and the king, on descending from his vehicle, is presented by 
a Brahman with holy water with which he bathes his face and pours 
out a libation to the Goddess of Earth. At each of these halts the 
king changes his vehicle, thus making use of four in all palanquin, 
chariot, horse, and, finally, elephant, the four traditional royal modes 
of conveyance. But in Siam, although the royal chargers take part 
in the procession, the King remains on his palanquin throughout. 
Another point of interest is that the Cambodian king changes his 
head-dress each time he changes his vehicle. The Hindu gods had each 
a different vehicle. Can it be that this change of head-dress and 
vehicle symbolizes the king's representation of several of the gods of 
the Hindu pantheon ? 

Thus it appears that Cambodia still preserves certain features 
which have been lost in Siam. We know from Cheou Ta-kouan's 
account of the royal procession that he witnessed at the end of the 
thirteenth century, 3 that the Khmer king rode on an elephant, and 
held the precious sword ; and we find most of the features of the 
modern Cambodian procession depicted on the bas-reliefs of Ankor Vat. 

It will be interesting to consider in a little more detail some of 
the component parts of the Siamese Coronation Procession. The 

1 L.. Coronation du roi Sisowath. 

2 Delaporte, Cortege Royal Chez les Khmers, Revue de Geog., 1878. 

3 Pelliot, in BEFEO. ii, April, 1902. 


picturesque uniforms of the Ancient Bodyguard (Tdmrvac), with their 
old-time tunics, embroidered pha-nuh, and heavy swords, are 
reminiscent of the fighting men of the Ayudhya period ; but it is 
important to note that they are evidently intended to guard against 
evil influences from the spirit world, just as much as against more 
material foes, for they carry the sacred sincana cord stretched along 
each side of the procession. None the less remarkable are the uniforms 
of the umbrella-bearers and of the drummers, who march in two files, 
those on the right dressed in green, those on the left in red, and 
presumed to represent gandharvas (heavenly minstrels). These, 
together with the representatives of Indra and Brahma, symbolize 
the fact that the King is to be regarded as a deity surrounded by the 
traditional followers of the gods. In striking contrast to all these 
are the semi-European uniforms of the chamberlains and pages. 

The Monkey and Garuda Standards, always carried before the King 
in state processions, represent the monkey god Hanuman and the 
sacred bird Garuda, the mount of Visnu. In one of the reliefs of 
Ankor Vat the king is preceded by an ensign representing Visnu 
mounted on Garucja 1 ; while the indented flags or pennants used in 
Siamese processions are also shown on the Ankor Vat reliefs, 2 and on 
those of the Borobodur. 

The Fan is similar to that which forms one of the regalia, but it 
is larger, and is put to practical use, during the progress, for the benefit 
of the King. The large and highly ornamented Sunshade has also its 
prototype in the Ankor Vat reliefs. 3 The Umbrella is large and 
single-tiered, and is evidently intended both as a practical protection 
from the rays of the sun and as a symbol of authority, which latter 
function is also performed by the numerous five- and seven-tiered 
umbrellas in the procession. 

The last feature that calls for special mention is the Royal Palanquin, 
the only vehicle now used by the King in state processions by land, 
and frequently used as an alternative to the elephant and the horse 
in the Ayudhya period, as mentioned by most seventeenth century 
European writers. Palanquins are mentioned in the earliest Khmer 
inscriptions, i.e. those of the seventh century, 4 but in the classical 
period of Cambodia they appear to have been used only for the trans- 
portation of images, lingas, and the sacred fire. Classical palanquins 
of this type are shown in the reliefs of Banteai Chhma, Ankor Thorn, 
and Ankor Vat, 6 from which the modern Cambodian palanquin 6 
and that of Siam seem to have been derived. Similarly, royal ladies 

1 A, iii, pp. 257 sq. * Gr., Fig. 49, a, b, c. 3 Gr., Fig. 48, m. 

* Gr.. pp. 41 sq. * Gr., Fig. 66. Gr., plate vii, 6, c. 


both in Siam and Cambodia are carried in a type of curtained palanquin 
of which the prototype is depicted on a relief at Banteai Chhma, 1 and 
strangely enough, not represented at Arikor Thorn, Ankor Vat, nor 
in any other relief. It appears, therefore, that although the palanquin 
was known during the classical period of Cambodia, not until later 
times did it come into use as a royal vehicle. Persons of quality 
probably preferred to be carried on hammock-litters, suspended from 
poles, these being frequently delineated in the bas-reliefs, but having 
now completely disappeared from Siam and Cambodia. They were, 
however, until recent times the ordinary mode of conveyance of people 
of rank in Cochin- China, 2 and may have reached Cambodia from China 
by that route. 

We now turn to the consideration of the State Progress by Water, 
which took place on 3rd March, 1926, in connection with the Coronation 
of King Prajadhipok. The King, wearing state robes and a Royal 
Hat, was borne on a palanquin from the Grand Palace to the Royal 
Landing (Da Rajavamtitha), where, in the Royal Pavilion (Brah-di- 
ndn Rajakiatviniwchay), accommodation was provided for the Royal 
Family, while tents were erected on the river front to seat members 
of the Diplomatic Corps, Officials of State, and the general public. The 
King and Queen watched the procession of state barges filing past, 
until the Royal Barge (PI. XIV) came alongside the landing, when the 
paddlers, with joined palms, bowed low three times in unison, according 
to the traditional method of paying homage. The King then embarked, 
and, donning the Personal KatJmia Crown, seated himself under the 
golden canopy (puspaka) beneath the yyrasada spire amidships. He was 
attended by several nobles of high rank, as well as by chamberlains 
bearing the regalia, the large fan, the sunshade, the large single- 
tiered umbrella, and several five-tiered processional umbrellas. The 
order of the procession of state barges was as follows : 


1 . Tiger barge Tiger barge 

2-10. Barges of the line First drum barge Barges of the line. 

11. Gold barge of the line Inspection barge Gold barge of the line 

12. Monkey barge of the line Monkey barge of the line 

13. Asura barge of the line Asura barge of the line (drums) 


14. Sugriva barge (drums) Inspection barge Bali barge (drums) 

15. Garuda barge (trumpets and Garuda barge (trumpets and 

conches) conches) 

1 Gr., Fig. 64, a. 

8 Crawfurd, Journal of an Embassy to Siam and Cochinchina, 1828, plate facing 
p. 282. 


16. Royal Pavilion barge " Prahbhi-Uarajaya " (fish figure-head) conveying the 

King's offerings to religion 

17. Barge conveying metal Second drum Barge conveying metal drums 

drums barge 

18. Escort barge Royal Throne Escort barge 


" Subarnahansa " 
(Golden hansa figure-head) 
with the King on board 

19. Escort barge Royal Pavilion Escort barge 


" Anekajatibhujanga " 
conveying the King's state robes 

20. Royal Throne Barge 
" Anantanagaraja " 
(naga figure-head) 

in reserve for return journey 

21. Royal reserve barge 

The procession of royal barges constitutes, without a doubt, the 
most spectacular of the many brilliant sights that are to be seen in 
the Kingdom of Siam ; and as such they have been justly celebrated 
by European writers since the seventeenth century. 

" Probably the largest dug-outs in the world arc the Siamese 
royal state barges. These are of mai yang [Dipterocarpus spp.] wood 
and each boat consists of a single tree. They are 150 feet or rather 
more in length and about eleven feet beam, and are made in exactly 
the same way as the smallest canoe, the tree being hollowed out with 
adzes, submerged in water until thoroughly soaked and then opened 
out over fire. The symmetry of these royal barges, which are without 
superstructure of any kind, but are simply one piece of timber with 
prow and stern continuations, is quite perfect. . . . They have a 
smooth rounded bottom and beautiful lines running up into a graceful 
curve at the tapering stern. The sides are intricately carved and 
heavily gilded, and from the bow and stem depend large tassels of 
Yak hair, two at each end, with a piece of cloth-of-gold brocade 
hanging between them, charms to keep away evil spirits. A little 
aft of amidships, a pavilion with cloth-of-gold roof and side-curtains 
is supported on gilded pillars, and the boat is maimed by seventy 
paddlers seated in pairs forward and aft of the pavilion. At the stern 
are the two steersmen, and near the bow an individual stands on a 
small platform, where he controls the stroke and keeps the time by 
tapping on the deck with the butt-end of a long silver spear. The crew, 
who are dressed in the crimson uniform of the warriors of ancient 
Siam, are well drilled and flourish their long paddles in perfect time, 
raising them high in the air at the end of each stroke." L 

That the beauty and majesty of the royal barges does not fail to 
impress the minds of the Siamese people is indicated by the well- 

1 Graham, Siam, ii, pp. 83 and 245. 


known poem called the " Song of the Procession of Boats ", from 
which I quote a translation of the first two stanzas : 

" The king embarks upon the water 
Using his most magnificent barge 
Handsomely ornamented with ' King Keao ' ; 
The movement of the pliant paddles is beautiful to see. 

Crowded together but preserving order, 
Each shaped in the semblance of a curious beast, 
The vessels move along with their flags flying, 
Making the water to roar and foam." l 

I have indicated in the table showing the order of procession the 
function of each type of barge, but may add here that the barges of 
the line and the escort barges are manned by navy men in modern 
white uniforms, while marines, armed with rifles, occupy the central 
pavilions. The barges are mostly distinguished by their figure-heads, 
these being chiefly representations of characters from the Siamese 
version of the Rdmdyana : Hanuman, Sugriva, Bali, and Garuda. 
Since, in times of old, kings of Siam used to embark on warlike expeditions 
in procession similar to the one we are considering, it seems that the 
array was intended to represent Rama and his army, and the figure- 
heads were far more than mere ornament; they struck terror into 
the enemy. 

It is, of course, the magnificent royal barges proper, those that 
bear the King and his religious offerings, which primarily claim our 
attention, and, by comparative methods, I have arrived at what I 
think is an interesting theory as to their evolution. Barges of the 
classical period are represented on the reliefs of Banteai Chhma, 
Ankor Thorn, and Aiikor Vat. 2 Cheou Ta-Kouan was wrong in 
describing them as built of planks ; they were obviously hollowed out 
of a single tree in exactly the same way as are the modern royal barges. 
Though some of the more primitive barges were of slender form, the 
later classical ones 3 were of a much heavier and less graceful line than 
either the early barges or those of the present day, consisting almost 
entirely of poop, figure-head, and luxurious cabin. The seventeenth 
century Siamese barges 4 were also of comparatively heavy design. 
I attribute the sweeping graceful lines of some of the modern barges 
of Siam and Cambodia to influence from Burma during the latter part 
of the Ayudhya period, for it is to the Burmese royal barge that they 
show the closest resemblance. 

1 Ibid., i, p. 283. 2 Gr., Figs. 72 and 73. 3 Gr., Fig. 73, 6. 

4 L. L., plate at p. 40 ; de Chaumont, plates at pp. 34 and 76 ; Taehard, 
Figs. 19-22 (Fig. 2 in the present work). 


The somewhat superficial resemblance between the modern Siamese 
and Burmese royal barges is strengthened by evidence concerning the 
figure-heads. An early text of the southern Tsi (A.D. 479-501 ) mentions 
the barges of Funan as having the bow and stern shaped as the head 
and tail of a fish. 1 In both classical Khmer barges and those of 
seventeenth century Siam, the prow rose up comparatively abruptly 
from the hull. Sometimes there was no figure-head, and the poop 
and prow were formed by plain beams ; but when there was a figure- 
head the most common form was that of a great fish (the stern 
representing the tail). This was the primitive type, and is still seen 
in the modern royal barge of Cambodia, and was found in the war barges 
of Siam up to modern times, the prow of one of which is preserved in 
the Bangkok museum. A more complicated form of figure-head in 
classic Khmer times was that in which a seven-headed ndga issued 
from the mouth of the fish, and doubtless the modern " Ananta- 
nagaraja " was derived from that source. Sometimes the ndga-he&d. 
was replaced by an apsaras, while figure-heads of Visnu on Garuola 
were also used, as they were in recent times in Siam, there being one 
dating from the reign of Rama IV preserved in the National Museum. 
But in classical Cambodia there is no trace of the hahsa figure-head, 
which, taken in conjunction with the more sweeping lines of the boat 
on which it is used, gives us the most beautiful royal barge of modern 
Siam. On the other hand, this figure-head was characteristic of the 
Burmese royal barges, and was probably derived from the Mons, 
since the hahsa was their most popular emblem. There seems no 
doubt, therefore, that this feature was derived by the Siamese from 
Burma, probably towards the end of the Ayudhya period, since the 
seventeenth century Siamese barges have a rather primitive form of 
this figure-head. 

In classic Khmer times a rectangular curtained cabin was erected 
amidships, at least in those barges not designed for warfare. In Siam, 
both in the seventeenth century and to-day, this type of cabin is 
found in the pavilion barges used by the King only in Kathina pro- 
cessions and for the conveyance of royal offerings and formerly for 
noblemen and ambassadors, while those used by the King on the 
most important occasions such as the Coronation Progress (and in 
the seventeenth century t used to convey the French king's letter) are 
known as throne (brah-di-ndn) barges, and have a smaller cabin crowned 
by a prdsdda spire, such as is found on the summit of many Siamese 
royal and religious buildings. This grdsdda spire is also found on the 
Burmese barges, and is characteristic of Burmese royal buildings, for 

1 Gr., p. 109. 


example, the spire crowning the Mandalay palace. On the contrary, 
nothing of the kind is found in Cambodia, at least until modern times, 
when it has been copied from the Siamese. That the prdsdda spire 
was evolved in Burma there can be no doubt ; a building of the eleventh 
century at Pagan, the Bidagat Taik, has been well described as the 
Mandalay spire in stone. 

I conclude, therefore, that though the Siamese received their 
first idea of a royal barge from the Khmers, as is obvious from the 
design of the pavilion cabin and most of the figure-heads, yet they 
were later much influenced by Burmese designs which gave them the 
prdsdda-CYOwned throne-barge and the hansa figure-head, and thus 
their most beautiful royal barge, the " Subarnahansa ". 

There are two other points of interest concerning the royal barges. 
Firstly, at all periods, both in Cambodia and Siam, the barge was 
steered by a man standing at the stern with a long paddle. That the 
rudder was known to the ancient Khmers we know from the fact 
that a Chinese junk with rudder is depicted on the reliefs of Ankor 
Vat 1 ; but neither the Khmers nor the Siamese ever adopted this 
mode of steering for their state barges. A second point noticeable 
from a study of the classical reliefs is that the paddles were thrust 
through holes which would prevent their being raised high out of the 
water with a flourish at every stroke as in modern Siam. In the 
seventeenth century barges the holes have disappeared, but none 
of the pictures show the paddles raised out of the water. Perhaps this 
was also a modification introduced from Burma. 

1 Or., Fig. 73, c . 


CORONATION (continued) 


1. The Installation of the Queen. 

The Installation of Queen Rambai Barnl took place immediately 
after the General Audience on Coronation Day, 25th February, 1926. 
It took place then because the King desired thus to honour his consort 
(whom he married in 1917) immediately after his own attainment of 
the supreme power, but there was no necessity for him to have done so. 
The late King Rama VI did not raise his consort Cau Com Savathana 
to queenly rank, and she was not, therefore, permitted to sit beside 
him on state occasions ; and in Siamese history we find instances of 
kings who, though possessed of many wives, did not see fit to raise 
any of them to the queenship. Nevertheless, there were normally 
four queens, a greater and a lesser of the right, and a greater and 
a lesser of the left, the former side being considered the more honourable, 
as was also the case with the officials of the two divisions. Not only 
was it important for the king to secure the succession by fathering an 
heir of the Cau Fa rank, but ancient Indian tradition considered a 
queen as one of the royal ratnas which every king should possess. Thus, 
says Manu : 

" Let him wed a consort of equal caste (mraa) who possesses 
auspicious marks (on her body), and is born in. a groat family, who 
is charming and possesses beauty and excellent qualities." 1 

The sprinkling (abhiseka) of queens is mentioned in the Cullakalinga 
Jataka ; but queens are not mentioned in Vedic literature, and the 
king's wives were considered of little account in those early times. 

Although I have said 2 that there is really no marriage ceremony 
in Siam, the Installation of the Quoen has certain features in common 
with marriage and Hocart 3 has gone so far as to derive that institution 
generally from Coronation. A common notion in ancient India was 
that male = heaven and female = earth. Then the king might 
be looked upon as a heavenly god, e.g. the Sun, and the queen as the 
Goddess of Earth. The intercourse between a king and a concubine 

1 Manu, vii, 77. 2 p. 48. 3 Hocart, Kingship, chap. viii. 



could only be physical ; to make it spiritual the concubine had to be 
raised to the royal status, i.e. she had to be identified with the deity, 
just as was the king. Hence it seems to me that this Investiture of 
the Queen may be looked upon as a kind of spiritual marriage. 

Queen Rambai BarnI is a cousin of the King, but under the old 
regime a Siamese king had three possible choices when he selected a 
queen. He could promote a favourite concubine, the most usual 
procedure ; he could marry a half-sister or even a full-sister ; or he 
could invite or accept the offer of a foreign princess. The latter is of 
extremely rare occurrence in Siamese history, but it is believed to have 
been accompanied by great pomp and circumstance. 

I have mentioned elsewhere 1 that the installation of a sister as 
queen was not particularly popular with Siamese kings, because of the 
greater amount of deference that had to be shown to them. But apart 
irom any relic of a former system of recognized matriarchy which this 
custom may or may not represent, and which was certainly not taken 
into account by any Siamese king, there were two very strong reasons 
for the installation of sisters as queens. One of these was distinctly 
practical, the other traditional, and connected with religion. In the 
first place, if a royal sister were unmarried, it was still necessary 
to confine her to the inner palace, for it was considered to entail 
danger to the monarchy to allow her to marry anyone but the king ; 
so it was safer to make her a queen. Secondly, there is the classical 
Buddhist example of sister-marriage with the object of keeping the 
royal line pure, which has been followed by later Buddhist kings. 
The progenitor of the Sakya clan, in which Gautama was born, 
was King Okakaraja, whose four sons founded the city of Kapilavastu. 
These- four princes, 

" finding that among their followers there were no daughters of the 
royal race whom they could marry, resolved, in order to keep pure 
the blood-royal, to marry their four youngest sisters." 2 

Queen Rambai Barni, on the occasion of her Installation, wore a 
diadem and ancient queenly dress, of which it is particularly interesting 
to note that it included the sarong, the classical lower garment of the 
Khmers, and still worn by modern Cambodian and Siamese dancers. 
The Siamese lower garment (phd-nuh) is an adaptation of the Indian 
dhoti, and was introduced into Cambodia by Prince Sri Supanma of 
Cambodia, who was captured and educated by the Siamese, and then 
sent back to rule over his own country as a vassal in 1602, and who 
was the means of introducing many Siamese rites and customs into 

1 p. 68. 8 Bigandet, The Life and Legend of BvddJia, 3rd ed., p. 11. 


Cambodia. The antique sarong worn by the Queen is thus a relic of 
ancient Khmer times, and is not to be confused with the sinn, the 
national skirt of the Laos, the wearing of which has become a fashion 
amongst upper class Siamese ladies only during the present century. 

The ceremony commenced * by the Lord Privy Seal (Prince 
Damrong) reading a proclamation announcing that the King, who 
was now full crowned and thereby empowered, intended to raise his 
consort to the rank of Queen (brah paraniarnjinl). The King, who 
was in full state robes and wearing the Kathina Crown, then anointed 
the Queen with consecrated water from a conch (PL XV), and invested 
her with the paraphernalia of rank, including the insignia of the Royal 
Family Order of Cakri, while a fanfare of ceremonial music was 
sounded. The Queen then sat beside the King on a Royal Chair, and, 
after receiving the congratulations and homage of the ladies, they 
retired to the Royal Residence scattering riches. 

It is interesting to note that although the ceremony is Brahmanical , 
being in fact a replica on a very small scale of the abhiseka of a king, 
the Brahmans do not perform the anointment. Not only is there a 
taboo against touching a royal lady, but the King, being himself fully 
consecrated, is in a position to exercise his divine and priestly functions. 

The following is a probably not very reliable note on the ceremony 
of Installation of a Queen as carried out in the reign of King Rama V : 

" Three days are usually devoted to the purpose. The chief 
officers of the palace, the chief scribes, and the chief princes and 
nobles of the kingdom are present, both Buddhist and Brahman. 
The princess is copiously bathed in pure water, in which the leaves 
of a certain kind of tree, supposed to possess purifying and healthful 
influences, are put. Most of the time is spent in feasting, but on the 
third day, she is placed on a small throne under a white canopy, 
where she is bathed with holy water, the priests reciting prayers 
the while. She is then conducted to a place where the wet clothes 
are laid aside, and she is arrayed in queenly costume, jewels and 
diamonds, and then displays herself to those in attendance." 2 

2. The Assumption of the Royal Residence. 

This ceremony, known as Chalom Brah Rdjamandira, corresponds 
to the popular one of housewarming commonly taking place after 
marriage, with which it has been confused by Europeans. In the 
case of the King it naturally follows the Coronation, when the King is 
about to take up his official residence in the Grand Palace. 

1 I find no mention of a preliminary ceremonial bath of purification, and if there 
was such a rite it presumably took place in private. 
1 Siam Repository, January, 1873. 



[ To 









Housewarming ceremonies are doubtless world-wide, since as 
Frazer says, " Demons are especially feared by persons who have just 
entered a new house." l There was such a ceremony in China, 2 but 
the Siamese ceremony is purely Buddhist, though with indications 
of early magical rites, and was no doubt derived from Ceylon with 
Hinayanism. Evidence for this is supplied by the following interesting 
passage from the Nidana-kathd : 

' k On the next day the festivals of the coronation, and of the 
housewarming, and of the marriage of Nanda, the king's son, were 
being celebrated all together." 3 

Here we have the housewarming mentioned in connection with 
the coronation, exactly as we have it to-day in Siam. 

The housewarming ceremonies in connection with the Coronation 
of King Prajadhipok were as follows : It has already been mentioned 4 
that Buddhist monks had for three days prior to Coronation Day been 
engaged in the recitation of protective stanzas in all three parts of the 
Chief Residence, especially in the Cakrabartibiman section. At 
6 p.m. on the 25th of February the Brahmans also performed a 
vian dian rite, as a protection to the Chief Residence. All this having 
been accomplished, the King and Queen made their way to the State 
Bedchamber in the Cakrabartibiman section, attended by young ladies 
of the Royal Family (PI. XVI) bearing the following articles of personal 
and domestic use, and presumably the relics of former magical rites : 
The cat (signifying Domesticity), the grinding stone (Firmness), 
the gherkin (cool, therefore Happiness), and grains, peas, and sesamum 
(Prosperity and Fertility) ; and an image of Buddha was first carried 
into the residence, signifying the nature of the household religion. 

The Queen Aunts, Savang Vadhana, and Sukhumal, as senior 
relatives of the King, handed to him a whisk of the White Elephant's 
tail, and a golden bunch of Areca Flowers, and then a senior Dame 
of the Palace handed a golden key to the King, symbolic of the fact 
that he was now entrusted with the Royal Residence and the private 
treasury therein. Finally, the King lay down formally on the royal 
couch and received blessing from the two Queen Aunts. 

The sociological value of this essentially private ceremony seems 
to be that by it the king would be impressed with the sanctity of his 
high office, not only as ruler of the country and people at large, but 
also as guardian and protector of the private institutions of royalty, 
the welfare of the royal family and the sacred apartments which had 

1 GB. Hi, p. 63. 2 Mentioned in the Li Ki, SBE. xxvii, p. 196. 

8 Rhys Davids, Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 226. * p. 73. 


been the residence of his ancestors. The ritual of his being blessed by 
his relations, especially the senior queens, brings home to him more 
closely than could any priestly benediction, the anxiety of the royal 
family for his well-being, as well as his responsibility for theirs. Thus, 
though there are indications that the ceremony was formerly accom- 
panied by certain magical rites which have now been lost, it remains, 
in its present form, an institution of considerable sociological 

In Cambodia there is practically the same ceremony of Assumption 
of the Residence as that described above, and it has evidently been 
introduced into that country from Siam. But a remarkable difference 
is that the astrologers take part and address prayers to the guardian 
spirits of the umbrella and of the palace, and pretend to receive satis- 
factory promises of protection from them. 1 This seems to be a case 
of the Brahmans, who retained more influence in Cambodia than they 
did in Siam, interfering in a ceremony that did not concern them 

1 L., Coronation du roi Sisoicath. 



1 . Pnsydbhiselca . l 

In India the idea of the consecration of kings differed from ours 
in that there was not a single and final tk coronation ", but numerous 
ascending grades of anointment (abhiseka), spread over a number of 
years, perhaps throughout the lifetime of the monarch. Correlated 
with this was the idea that the divinity of a king required a periodical 

In Siam there was such a periodical royal consecration, known as 
pusydbhiseka, which used to take place in the second Siamese lunar 
month (Pausa), but it was discontinued after the fall of Ayudhya. 

The object of the ceremony is said to have been the maintenance 
of the welfare of the kingdom, presumably by means of the reinforce- 
ment of the king's divine powers. The king mounted a dais (mantapa 
piled with fresh flowers of seven kinds, changed his attire, and anointed 
himself. Eight Brahmans were in attendance and offered a blessing. 
They then performed a dance known as denvisai (" the angel tourna- 
ment "), of Hindu origin, and performed at Siamese state festivals up 
to modern times. 

This ceremony corresponds to the Indian pusydbhiseka, the special 
feature of which was that it took place at the conjunction of the moon 
with .the asterism pusyd, which feature was retained in Siam. It was 
at this time that Indra originally conquered the demons, 2 and the 
coronation of Rama was also an example of pusydbhiseka ; but it was 
not confined to the inauguration of sovereignty. 3 

2. Indr abhiseka. 

We have already seen that the Siamese Rdjdbhiseka contains many 
ideas derived from the Vedic Rdjasuya, or consecration of emperors. 
There was also in Vedic India another ceremony for the consecration 
of emperors, known as the Indrdbhiselea , or anointment with the 
rites of Indra. It is described in the Aitareya Brahmana, but, though 
the Siamese have preserved the ancient name, the ceremony with 
which they connect it seems to have little in common with that of 

1 Sources : BUB., p. 76 ; mentioned in NN. (p. 70), KM. and HV. 

2 Ramayana, n, 14, 46. 3 ERE. art. "Abhiseka". 



Vedic times. Indeed, the only recorded instance of it ever having 
been performed in Siam seems to be the occasion on which King 
Ramadhipatl II in A.D. 1510 successfully brought the northern part 
of what is now Siam under the sway of Ayudhya, and thus considered 
himself entitled to the rank of emperor. The KM. gives an account 
of the Siamese ceremony of Indrdbhiseka, but the following is only an 
approximately correct translation of this peculiarly difficult and 
ambiguous passage : 

" For the royal ceremony of Indrdbhiseka a Meru, of a height of 
1 sen 5 vd, 1 is built in the middle of an open space. There Indra 
sits on the Meru, surrounded by Isindhara and Yugundhara mountains, 
one sen high ; and there stand Karavika Mountain 15 vd high and 
Mount Kailasa 10 vd high. On the inside are golden umbrellas, in the 
middle are red gold umbrellas, and those of silver are outside. Outside 
these again is a rdjavdt 2 fence with umbrellas of five colours. Within 
the umbrellas stand figures of devatd, and outside them is a rdjavdt 
fence. Paper umbrellas and figures of giants (ydksa, gandharba, 
rdksasa) stand at the foot of the Meru, and there are figures of various 
kinds of lions (gajasiha, rajaslha, sinto, kilen), goat-antelopes, cows, 
buffaloes, tigers, bears, and devatd. On Kailasa sits a figure of Siva 
and graceful Uma. On the top of Meru is a figure of Indra. Figures of 
asuras are in the middle of the Meru ; Visnu sleeps on the water at 
the foot of the Meru, and a seven-headed ndga encircles the Meru. 
Outside the open space stand asuras, and outside the walls are dancing 
halls. Lictors are dressed as 100 asuras, and pages represent 100 
devatd. There are Ball, Sugrlva, Mahajambhu, and a train of 103 
monkeys. They pull the ancient ndga : the asuras pull the head, the 
devatd pull the tail, and the monkeys are at the end of the tail. One 
side of Meru is gold, one side is red gold, one side crystal, one side 
silver, the Yugundhara mountain is gold, the Isindhara is red gold, 
Karavika and Kailasa are silver. On the surrounding space outside 
are elephants, horses, and the four divisions of the army. Officials of 
10,000 marks of dignity wear precious stones and put on coats and 
silk pha-nun of honour. Those of 5,000 grade wear golden hats and 
put on coats and splendid silk pha-nun. Those of 3,000 wear hats of 
foreign silk and coats and silk pha-nun. Those of 2,400 to 1,200 
marks of dignity carry silver and gold flowers according to rank, 
with flowers and pop-corn to pay homage. Brahmans of various 

1 1 va = 1 fathom, 1 sen = 20 fathoms. 

2 The rdjavdt fence is made of lattice, decorated at intervals with small tiered paper 
umbrellas. It is erected around the area in which ceremonies are performed when 
these take place in the open air, in order to exclude evil influences. 


sects sit within the enclosure. On the first day there is kdrdhibhasa 
(a discourse ?) ; on the second day rdpvdn (all is quiet ?) ; on the 
third day srdnvdn (the building goes on ?) ; and on the fourth day 
capsamiddha (?) ; and on the fifth day they pull the ancient ndga. 
On the sixth day they make three pools of angelic water, a three- 
headed elephant, a white horse, and a king of oxen. They take arms, 
elephant weapons, and ropes for catching elephants, and steep them in 
water. They take one hundred figures of $iva. Visnu, Indra, and 
Visvakarma, and bear utensils for following the custom of entering to 
offer a blessing (thvdy brahbar). On the seventh day the Brahmans 
offer a blessing and on the eighth day the king offers a blessing ; on 
the ninth day they offer the elephants and horses and the four divisions 
of the army ; on the tenth day they offer the twelve treasuries ; on the 
eleventh day they offer the taxes ; on the twelfth day they offer the 
city ; on the thirteenth day they offer the consecrated water ; on the 
fourteenth day they make offerings to the devatd ; on the fifteenth day 
they make offerings to the king ; on the sixteenth day they make 
offerings to the princes ; on the seventeenth day the king rewards 
the Brahmans ; on the eighteenth day there are offerings of kalpavrksa 
fruits l ; on the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first days gold and 
silver flowers are scattered. For a month theatricals are performed. 
They build a standing effigy of a giant 1 sen high. The pages represent 
monkeys and go out through openings in its ears, nose, eyes, and 
mouth, and drive in royal cars scattering alms about the city. This 
is the end of Indrdbhiseka." 

One immediately identifies the above as a sort of theatrical 
representation of the myth of the " Churning of the Ocean ", as told 
in the Rdmdyana ; and it gives one the impression of being an old- 
time description of the type of popular festival of which the Siamese 
have always been so passionately fond. At first sight, however, one 
might fail to appreciate the connection between this and the idea of 
an Indrdbhiseka. But since Mount Meru is the home of Indra, it 
appears that in this ceremony the king is identified with that 
god, and the " Churning of the Ocean " and the other entertainments 
are performed in his honour. 

3. A Comparative View of Royal Consecration Ceremonies. 

Before passing on to the consideration of other Ceremonies of 
Installation, it will be convenient to pause here to note to what extent 
Siamese Royal Consecration Ceremonies fall into line with those of 
other countries. In his book on Kingship 2 , Hocart brings forward what 

1 See page 146. * Chapter vii. 


appears to me very convincing evidence for the common origin of all 
coronation ceremonies within a very wide area, stretching from Fiji 
to Western Europe. No one will deny the probability of common 
origin within the Indian sphere, and the countries with which Hocart 
deals have one important feature in common : they were for very 
many centuries connected by maritime intercourse. But, as I have 
already mentioned in Chapter I, this very fact precludes our allowing 
this theory of common origins a world-wide application, at any rate 
in the present state of our knowledge. And that this is fully realized 
by Hocart is indicated by the admirable wish with which he concludes 
his chapter on the subject : " May we hope that the present study will 
serve as a stimulus to others to seek out other more distant forms and 
thus widen the basis of our inquiry ? " 

I fear I cannot be of much assistance in that way, at least so far 
as Coronation is concerned, because the Cambodian Coronation, 
which is so similar to that of Siam, is one of the examples which he 
analyses. However, his study of the Cambodian ceremony is not very 
detailed or satisfactory, and it may, therefore, be worth while to 
see what light Siam can contribute. He analyses the complete 
coronation ceremony into twenty-six parts. Not all these twenty-six 
components are to be found in the ceremony of any one country in the 
area with which he deals, because each country seems to have lost 
one or more factors. Even so, the resemblance between the coronation 
ceremonies of all the countries in that area is very remarkable. 

I will now quote the components as Hocart tabulates them, 
placing in square brackets those which definitely do not seem to be 
represented in Siam: 

(a) The theory is that the King [(1) dies] ; (2) is reborn ; (3) as a god. 
But the idea of death must formerly have existed since it is implied 
by the rebirth as a god. 

(6) By way of preparation [he fasts and] practises other austerities. 
For three days beforehand the King attends preparatory Buddhist 
religious services, and keeps the Buddhist precepts. 

(c) (1) Persons not admissible to the sacrifice , such as strangers, 
sinners, women, and children, are kept away, and are not allowed to know 
anything ; (2) an armed guard prevents prying eyes. In Siam the palace 
is, of course, strictly guarded, and the more important ceremonies 
are, or used to be, distinctly private. 

(d) [A kind of sabbath is observed ; the people are silent and lie quiet 
as at death.'] One would not expect to find this in Siam, since the idea 
of death, in connection with Coronation, has been lost. 

(e) The King must fight a ritual combat [(1) by arms, or] (2) by 


ceremonies, and (3) come out victorious. In Siam the combat is evidently 
fought and the victory attained by means of ritual, but note the 
presence of the Sword of Victory and the other arms. 

(/) The King is (I) admonished to rule justly, and (2) promises to 
do so. But not with the emphatic type of oath used in many countries. 

(g) [He receives communion in one or two kinds.] Soma drinking 
has disappeared in all Buddhist countries. 

(h) The people indulge at one point in [(1) obscenities] or, (2) 
buffoonery. Except at the last coronation, there were theatrical 
performances for the benefit of the public. 

(i) The King is invested with special garments. In Siam the new 
King wears for the first time the ancient regal garments, including a 
long tunic. 

(j) He is baptized with water the purificatory bath in Siam 

(k) and anointed ivith oil but the oil is replaced by water in Siam 

(I) [when a human victim is killed] 

(m) and the people rejoice with noise and acclamations. In Siam 
there are the fanfares, firing of cannon, and ringing of bells, 

(n) and a feast is given especially the feeding of the monks. 

(o) The King is crowned, 

(p) puts on shoes, 

(q) and receives other regalia, such as a sword, a ring, etc., 

(r) ami sits upon a throne. 

(s) [He takes three ceremonial steps in imitation of the rising sun.] 
But in the ceremony on the octagonal throne he first faces the direction 
of the rising sun. 

(t) At the conclusion of the ceremonies he goes the round of his 
dominions and receives the homage of the vassals. Circumambulation 
of the city. 

(u) He receives a new name. 

(v) The Queen is consecrated with the King but not necessarily, 
in Siam. 

(w) So are the vassals or officials either at the coronation ceremony, 
or in the course of the King's tour. In Siam the King confirms the 
officials in their offices at the coronation audience. 

(x) [Those who take part in the rites are dressed up as gods, sometimes 
with masks] 

(y) [which may be those of animals, thus identifying the wearer with 
some kind of beast]. 

(z) A King may be consecrated several times, going up each time one 
step in the scale of kingship, e.g. Indrdbhiseka in Siam. 



The Tonsure Ceremony in Siam is a rite of initiation of youths, 
corresponding to the Hindu Culdkantah Mahgala. It is the most 
important of the Hindu samskaras, or initiation rites, still surviving 
in Siam, the only others that are to some extent observed being the 
SiJcjdlhahpahnah Mahgala (ceremony of shaving the first hair of the 
new-born), Ndma Mahgala (ceremony of giving the first name to the 
child), and NaJihdnah Titllia Mahgala (auspicious rite of taking a 
child to water and teaching him to swim), the latter now reserved for 
princes and princesses of Cau Fa rank. 

It will be readily appreciated that the study of most of these 
samsTcdras does not fall within the scope of the present work for the 
reason that they are connected with the childhood of kings (princes 
and commoners as well), and are private rather than state ceremonies. 
The Tonsure Ceremony, at least that form of it in which a prince of 
Cau Fd rank is the initiate, is, however, an exception, since it throws 
considerable light on certain aspects of the kingship : Firstly, the 
reigning king, or his substitute, plays the role of the god Siva, and this, 
it will be shown, is of great importance in connection with the concep- 
tion of the kingship and the theory of " temporary kings ". This 
aspect of the ceremony has, so far as I know, not been elaborated by 
any European writer, and is not understood by the Siamese. Secondly, 
a close relationship can easily be traced between the Coronation and 
the Tonsure Ceremonies. The resemblance between the two series 
of rites is most apparent in the tonsure of royalty, less so in that of the 
nobles and commoners. Gerini went so far as to compare the two 
ceremonies in the words : " The tonsure for a prince of so high a station 
(Cau Fd) becomes an imposing State Ceremony which may be ranked 
as second only to the Coronation of a king >M ; but it remained for 
Hocart 2 to trace the parallelism in detail, and advance the theory 
of the actual derivation of both Initiation and Coronation from some 
earlier common Ceremony of Installation. He does not, however, 
include either the Cambodian or the Siamese Tonsure Ceremonies 
among those which he analyses, and which would strongly support 
his theory. 

The very detailed knowledge which we possess concerning the 
Siamese Tonsure Ceremony is due to Gerini's scholarly monograph 

1 Ge. (1), p. 94. 2 Kingship, chapter xii. 



which remains the only instance of a Siamese Brahmanic ceremony 
having been made the subject of profound study and research. Though 
further study might show that Gerini's work is neither infallible nor 
exhaustive, for the purpose of supporting the above mentioned theories 
his facts will be adequate, especially as there has now been no 
opportunity of witnessing the Tonsure of a Cau Fa prince for many 
years, the last occasion being that of the present King. The following 
is a condensed summary of the facts adduced by Gerini, on which I 
shall base my conclusions concerning the two aspects of the ceremony 
with which we are concerned in the present work : 

In Siam, Tonsure takes place either in the eleventh or thirteenth 
years, whereas it was performed in India between the sixteenth and 
twenty-fourth years, according to the caste of the candidate. The 
change to an earlier date in Siam is evidently due to Buddhism, since 
when a boy enters the novitiate, which event must take place before 
the fourteenth year (not earlier than the ninth), the Buddhist Tonsure 
of the whole head is performed unceremoniously ; and it is important 
that the Brahmanic Tonsure, with the rites due to the three privileged 
castes, should previously have been disposed of with all due ceremony. 

The Tonsure of princes is designated Sokdnta, in distinction from 
that of nobles and commoners, which is known as kdra Icon cuk. The 
generic and at the same time classic Pali term used in Siam is Cula- 
kdntaJi mail y ala (corresponding to the Sanskrit kcsdnta). The Sokdnta 
differs in the main from the kdra kon cuk by reason of the fact that in 
the former a special artificial mountain (Kailasa) within the palace 
grounds is used, whereas in the latter the ceremonies are carried out 
on an ordinary ceremonial dais with canopy, erected in the private 
house of the initiate's family. For princes of Brah Anga Cau and 
Hmom Cau rank, a permanent rocky structure about ten feet high, and 
situated within the precincts of the palace, is utilized as a Kailasa ; 
but for Cau Fa a special mountain of from 20 to 46 feet in height is 
built. The reason for the use of a structure symbolizing the Kailasa 
is that, following Brahmanical tradition, the Sokdnta is carried out 
in accordance with the ceremonial which accompanied the mythical 
tonsure of Siva's son Ganesa on Mount Kailasa. The Siamese have 
a standard text-book of cosmology called Tmibhumi (" the three 
worlds "), which was compiled in A.D. 1776 from ancient Buddhist 
texts in the Pali language. Gerini l gives a fairly full explanation of 
this world-system, but for our purpose it is sufficient to note that 
though the arrangement differs considerably from that of the ancient 
Hindus, and the Kailasa has lost its classical position, it nevertheless 

1 Ge. (1), pp. 95 sqq. 


retains its significance as the home of the god $iva. With the necessary 
modifications due to the smallness of the scale on which the work 
must be carried out and the necessity of reaching the summit by means 
of ladders instead of supernatural power, the Kailasa used at the 
Sokdnta is an attempt to portray the traditional wonders of the Great 
God's'home (PL XVII). 

In the case of the Tonsure of the late king, then Cau Fa Maha 
Vajiravudh, which took place in December, 1892, and to which all 
the following details of the Sokanta refer, the Kailasa was forty feet 
high. It was a hollow structure of plaited bamboos, supported on poles 
and covered with tinsel of the appearance of gold and silver. On its 
summit towered a central pavilion which was profusely gilded and 
decorated. Inside it were placed urns containing sacred relics and 
hallowed water for the anointment. This pavilion was surrounded 
by a rdjavdt fence, decorated with the usual tiered umbrellas 
and sunshades, with gateways at the four cardinal points. At the 
four corners stood the guardians of the quarters. On the northern 
and southern sides of the terrace stood chapels containing images of 
the Hindu deities. Access to the top of the hill was provided by two 
ladders leading up in opposite directions, one from the east and ono 
from the west, while at the base of these were landing stages suitable 
for the approach of palanquins. Half-way up the hill was situated 
the grotto for the aspersion of the candidate. It was carved in the 
tinsel rock with a floor representing the Anotatta lake in miniature 
in front of which was a marble platform on which the candidate was 
to stand while receiving the aspersion with the hallowed water led 
through the mouths of four effigies, representing horse, elephant, 
lion, and bull respectively. A little to the right of the grotto was a 
small pavilion in which the candidate was to change his apparel after 
the bathing. All over the Kailasa were representations of ascetics, 
bird-men, and the various fabulous animals of the Himalayan fairy- 
land l ; while set-pieces illustrating episodes from the Hindu epics and 
other stories were also to be seen. 

The Tusita Maha Prasada had been prepared as a " rites hall ", 
and here on the eve of the festival (25th December), Buddhist monks 
recited paritta texts, for in the Tonsure, as in most State Ceremonies, 
Buddhist modifications have been appended to what was once a 
purely Hindu observance. At the same time the Court Brahmans 
performed their preliminary rites in a chapel erected outside the 
Tusita Maha Prasada. 

The morning of the first day of the festival (26th December), was 
1 Mentioned in detail on pp. 167 sq. 


given up to the recitation of partita texts in the Tusita Maha Prasada, 
and the usual presentation of food to the monks who had officiated. 
In the afternoon the prince was borne on a palanquin in a royal 
procession and by a circuitous route to the Tusita Hall, first filing 
past the King, who then, by a direct route, was also carried on a 
palanquin to the Tusita Maha Prasada. Here he assisted the prince 
from his palanquin and they both made offerings of tapers arid incense 
before the sacred images. At the same time another of the King's 
sons of Cau Fa rank made similar offerings before the images on the 
Kailasa, where a chapter of monks was engaged in consecrating the 
aspersion water. These ceremonies completed, the prince returned 
by the same route, this time seated on the same palanquin as his 
father, who again assisted him to alight. Similar ceremonies were 
performed on the afternoons of the following two days (27th and 28th 

On these occasions the candidate was dressed in a handsome 
costume of white, richly embroidered with gold, a small jewelled 
coronet similar in form to the king's mankut, and heavy gold bangles 
on wrists and ankles. The procession was made up in much the same 
way as is the state progress of a king. First marched military units, 
then came pages dressed as devata, and groups of boys dressed in the 
costumes of various countries, but all wearing the toupet which 
showed that they had not yet reached adolescence ; there were red 
and green drummers of victory, Brahmans scattering parched rice 
or playing ceremonial instruments, and damsels bearing peacock 
standards ; then came the prince's palanquin accompanied by royal 
umbrella, sunshade, and fan ; officials impersonating devas of the Indra 
and Brahma heavens, and maids of honour carrying the royal insignia 
denoting the rank of the prince. Next followed a bevy of young girls 
wearing the toupet, and lastly, pages leading caparisoned chargers. 
During the proceedings the usual entertainments, common to all 
great state festivals, were in progress for the amusement of the public. 

On the Day of Tonsure (28th December), the auspicious moment 
for performing the operation was declared by the hord to be between 
6.6 a.m. and 6.59 a.m. The young prince was borne in procession 
to the Tusita Maha Prasada by a shorter route than on the previous 
days. Clad in white garments, and wearing jewelled coronet and 
bangles, he was led to a Chair of State in front of the officiating 
monks, who recited the usual paritta texts. In the Ayudhya period 
the Cau Fa candidate was actually tonsured on the Bhadrapitha 
Throne, on which was laid a lion's skin. After the topknot had been 
parted into five tufts, the King, as the auspicious time drew near, 


placed on the candidate's right hand the Ring of the Nine Gems 
(brah mahd vijiara nabratana dharmarafiga). Then the King poured 
on to the prince's head a few drops of lustral water from a chank shell, 
the favourable moment was proclaimed by the sounding of ceremonial 
instruments, and the King severed three of the tufts with golden 
shears. The remaining two were severed by the two eldest princes in 
attendance, after which the head of the Eoyal Wardrobes Department 
completed the shaving. 

Following the conclusion of the actual Tonsure, the King proceeded 
to the Kailasa mountain, where he was to receive the candidate, who 
was carried thither in state, this time wearing a tnala royal hat, which 
reminds one of the custom of a king when proceeding to and from 
ceremonial halls at the time of his coronation. On arrival at the 
Kailasa the prince was assisted from the palanquin by the King, and 
led to the Anotatta lake. Seated on the bathing platform, with matum 
leaves placed over his right ear and phronmdian leaves on the left, and 
holding tightly a charm called krahpofi bejra ("diamond-cudgel"), 
the water from the mouths of the symbolical beasts of the cave was 
showered down upon him. This preliminary bath over, the King 
advanced and poured the contents of the great chank shell upon the 
head of the prince. The Queen, and other relatives in order of rank, 
came forward and poured water from other chank shells on to the 
prince's head. Finally, the chief Brahman did likewise. The prince 
was then led to the pavilion, where he changed his white bathing 
garments for the gorgeous apparel of a prince of the highest rank, 
with jewelled mala hat. 

We now come to a most interesting part of the ceremony, that of 
the reception on the Mountain by the god Siva (PL XVIII). The King, 
dressed in full state, wearing the Great Crown of Victory, and holding 
in his hand the Sword of Victory, impersonated Siva, and, accom- 
panied by princes and nobles dressed to represent the god's courtiers, 
he ascended to his palace on the top of Kailasa. Thence he commanded 
two of his celestial attendants to descend to the pavilion at the side 
of the hill where the young prince was waiting. They led him up the 
mountain by the western approach to where, at the top of the stairs, 
Siva was waiting. The latter presented him to the public, who offered 
homage, and the two then proceeded to the central pavilion on the 
top of the hill. There the prince, amid the congratulations of all 
present, received from the King's hand a jewelled coronet larger than 
the one he had formerly worn, and other insignia of high station. The 
prince was then led to the western approach, and descended with. 
the help of the god's two attendants. 



CT 1 




Since the prince was now deemed to have received his apotheosis, 
all those who had formed part of the procession, excepting only the 
Brahmans, changed their white garments for pink ones as a sign 
that the period of fasting and purification had terminated, and the 
white garments, required as a symbol of purity when taking the vow 
of observance of the Buddhist slla precepts, could now be cast aside 
for the worldly attire used on festive occasions. The companies of 
youths who took part in the procession changed their coronets for 
conical hats in an endeavour to conceal their topknots so as to appear 
that they also had received the tonsure. For the same reason the 
young girls wearing the toupet were replaced by older ones who had 
already received the tonsure. The procession, having thus been 
reconstituted, circumambulated the Kailasa mountain three times, 

Of the remaining rites it will be sufficient to note that in the 
afternoon of the Day of Tonsure, a golden throne surmounted by a 
three-tiered umbrella was erected in the centre of the Tusita Hall 
for the prince, the insignia of rank such as jewelled betel-box, water 
receptacle, spittoon, etc., being arranged on side tables as in the 
Coronation (PI. XIX). A second throne was placed in the eastern apse 
for the use of the King, the western and northern compartments being 
reserved for members of the Eoyal Family and officials respectively. 
At 5 p.m. the prince, arrayed in robes of state, was escorted to the 
Tusita Hall, where the King in full regal attire and wearing the 
Great Crown, received him. Pai-srl trays of food were offered to the 
spirit (Jchvdn) of the young prince which, after a period of wandering 
during his early childhood, now comes to rest finally in the body of 
the tonsurate. Then the Brahmans performed a vian dian rite, 
wafting the smoke towards the prince. The Brahman head-priest 
gave the tonsurate three tablespoonfuls of cocoa-nut milk mixed 
up with food from the pai-6ri$ (as food for the khvdn). Then he tied 
round his ankles the usual protective threads (corresponding to the 
say sincana), and lastly, anointed him in the form of a unakm scroll 
(sign of Siva) on the left palm, it being forbidden to touch so sacred 
a part of a prince's body as the forehead. The tonsurate himself, 
however, after passing the point of his right forefinger across the left 
palm, described his own unction on the space between his eyebrows. 
The King completed this final anointment by pouring a few drops on 
the prince's forehead from the great conch shell. The ceremonies for 
the day were brought to an end by the presentation to the prince 
of gifts from the King and members of the Royal Family, but all the 
ceremonies of the afternoon were repeated on the afternoons of the 


following two days (30th and 31st December). The last day of the 
festival (1st January) was devoted to the carrying of the hair in state 
procession down the river, and ceremoniously casting it into the 

The above completes our summary of the facts concerning the 
Sokdnta, and it will now be possible to draw certain conclusions from 
them. Firstly, as regards the part played by the King in impersonating 
Siva, Gerini 1 has shown that in the Sokdntas recorded in the Siamese 
Annals for the Ayudhya period, and in the early part of the Bangkok 
period, the King never filled the role of Siva himself, but appointed 
some prince of high rank as a substitute. King Kama IV was the 
first to perform this part in person, and his example was followed by 
King Rama V in the tonsure of Prince (afterwards King) Vajiravudh 
and of his other sons. But the earliest Sokdnta of which Gerini was 
able to find a detailed description dates back only to A.D. 1633, although 
he finds mention of a Tonsure Ceremony as far back as A.D. 1358. It is 
almost certain that the Brahmanical rites of Culdkantahmangala were 
introduced about the ninth century A.D., and had we fuller details of 
the rites as performed in the Sukhodaya period, I feel sure that we 
should find that the King performed the part of Siva in person. 
Later we should find the substitution of a prince or high noble when 
the idea had arisen that it was dangerous for the King to perform his 
magical and divine functions himself. The substitute was, in fact, 
a " temporary king " or " temporary god " in this ceremony, just 
as he was in a number of other State Ceremonies where the chief part 
was formerly played by the King. Later, in the Bangkok period, the 
raison d'etre of the substitute came to be forgotten, as it has been in 
the other State Ceremonies, and the King resumed his early functions. 
But the Sokanta, as performed in the fourth and fifth reigns of the 
present dynasty, is especially remarkable as showing the extreme 
form of this return to former conditions, the King not merely being 
present as a spectator, instead of being confined to his palace, but 
actually carrying out in detail all the traditional functions of a god. 
This is as far as I can go with this subject in the present chapter. 
When we have studied the other ceremonies in which the idea of a 
substitute for the divine monarch exists, we shall be in a better position 
to further elaborate and strengthen the theory of " temporary kings ". 2 

The second aspect of the Tonsure Ceremony to be considered is 
its relationship to the Coronation. The resemblance between the two 
ceremonies may indeed appear sufficiently obvious from the summary 

1 Go. (1), p. 130 f.n,, and pp. 138 sqq. 

2 See Chapter XXII, " Temporary Kings." 


of the Sokdnta rites already given, but it will be convenient once 
more to make use of Hocart's table of analysis in order to show the 
main corresponding features as clearly as possible, again placing 
in square brackets those featiires not represented in Siam : 

(a) The theory is that the King [(1 ) dies] ; (2) is reborn ; (3) as a god. 
Here again I find no explicit idea of death, but it must be implied, since 
the tonsurate is definitely reborn, i.e. he is initiated to a new life, that 
of maturity. This is especially shown in the substitution for the 
young girls in the procession those who have been tonsured, and by the 
hats worn by the boys in an endeavour to conceal their topknots. 
That he is reborn as a god is certain he becomes Diva's son Ganesa. 

(b) By way of preparation he fasts and practises other austerities. 
This is indicated in the case of the Sokdnta by the dressing in white 
and the observance of the slla precepts by the candidate and his 

(c) (1) Persons not admissible to the sacrifice, such as strangers, 
sinners, women, and children, are kept away, and are not allowed to 
know anything ; (2) an armed guard prevents prying eyes. This feature 
is undoubtedly exhibited in a marked degree in the Sokdnta, since the 
reception on the Kailasa and the rites performed in the palace of oiva 
thereon are essentially secret and mystical. 

(d) A kind of sabbath is observed; the people are silent and lie quiet as 
death. This is distinct in the Sokdnta, though not found in the 
Coronation. The people rigidly observe the slla precepts, and 
silence is enjoined by tradition during all tonsure rites. 1 

(e) The King must fight a ritual combat [(L) by arms or] (2) by 
ceremonies, and (3) come out victorious. This is less definite than in 
the Coronation, but we still have the Brahmanical sacrifices and the 
presence of the Sword of Victory and the drums of victory. 

(/) The King is (1) admonished to rule justly, (2) promises to do so. 
The whole object of initiation is obviously that the candidate should 
appreciate that he has now passed to man's estate and will be expected 
to conduct himself accordingly. 

(g) He receives communion in one or two kinds. In partaking of 
the khvdn's food it seems to me that we may have a survival of a 
Brahmanical form of communion which has disappeared in the 

(h) The people engage at one point in [(1) obscenities'] and (2) 
buffoonery. There are the usual games and entertainments here as at 
the Coronation. 

(i) The King is invested with special garments. This is also the 
1 Ge. (1), p. 129. 


case with the tonsurate, and the garments are similar to those worn 
by kings. 

(j) He is baptized with water the ceremonial bath on the Kailasa 
(k) and anointed with oil, but, as in Coronation, the oil is replaced 
by water in Siam 

(I) [when a human victim is killed] 

(m) and the people rejoice with noise and acclamations. There is 
the public homage when the prince is presented to the people on the 
Kailasa ; but it is not the custom for the people to show their joy 
on these occasions in a noisy manner when in the presence of royalty, 
(n) and a feast is given. The officiating monks are fed on this as 
on the occasion of other important religious festivals. 
(o) The King is crowned and so is the tonsurate. 
(p) Puts on shoes special shoes are part of the ceremonial dress 
of the tonsurate, 

(q) and receives other regalia such as a sword, a sceptre, a ring, etc. 
We have seen that the candidate is presented by Siva with a special 
ring, and the krahpdn bejra charm, representing the Vajiravudha or 
adamantine mace of Indra, and corresponding to a sceptre. Other 
insignia such as betel-box, water-receptacle, etc., are presented to 
the prince, and he is accompanied when in procession by pages 
holding state umbrella, sunshade, and fan, while the throne on which 
the final rites are performed is shaded by a three-tiered white umbrella. 
The sword does not appear amongst the insignia of the prince, 
presumably on account of the taboo against carrying weapons in the 
immediate presence of the King. 
(r) and sits upon a throne. 

(s) [He takes three ceremonial steps in imitation of the rising* sun.] 

(t) At the conclusion of the ceremonies he goes the round of his 

dominions, and receives the homage of the vassals. We have the 

circumambulation of the prince, after receiving his apotheosis, around 

the artificial mountain, symbolical of his father's home Kailasa. 

(u) He receives a new name. It is now the custom to change the 
name and titles of royal children on the occasion of the river bathing 
ceremony. The account of the Tonsure of Prince In in 1633, as 
recorded in the Siamese Annals shows, however, that the name and 
titles were formerly changed at the Sokdnta : " He received from the 
King's hands a golden plate (subarnapdta) on which were engraved 
his new rank and title." l 

(v) [The Queen is consecrated with the King.] 
(w) [So are the vassals or officials either at the coronation ceremony 
1 Ge. (1), p. 138. 


i/ ' 

or in the course of the King's tour.] In Siam a Cau Fa prince was 
always tonsured in a special festival for himself alone. But the 
presence of numerous untonsured youths who make believe that they 
have been tonsured after the ceremony suggests that at one time the 
prince's youthful followers also received initiation with their royal 

(x) Those who take part in the rites are dressed up as gods [sometimes 
with masks]. We have the impersonation of Siva by the King or his 

(y) [which may be those of animals, thus identifying the wearer 
with some kind of beast]. But the presence of the mythical beasts from 
the Himalayan fairyland is to be noted. 

(z) A King may be consecrated several times, going up each time one 
step in the scale of kingship. And it seems that Tonsure is to be regarded 
as the preliminary step. 

The Tonsure Ceremony is undoubtedly falling into dis-esteem with 
the growth of modern Siam. Its greatest enemy has for centuries been 
the sdmanera, or Buddhist novice ordination, which fulfils all the 
functions of a Ceremony of Initiation, besides being a part of the 
living religion of the people. Thus while the entry to the Buddhist 
novitiate has a definite meaning in the eyes of the people, and to have 
a son in the yellow robe is the pride of every Siamese mother, on the 
other hand the kara kon cuk has little more in its favour than that it is 
auspicious, and pen dkarmniam (is the custom). The preservation 
of the topknot through the years of early youth has become too irksome 
a duty to be expected of the modern Bangkok schoolboy, and 
consequently, its tradition undermined by Buddhist modifications 
and Western " education ", it is rare to see a topknot in Bangkok except 
on the heads of young and pampered scions of nobility. It is, however, 
still a common sight amongst the unsophisticated people of rural 


*' *" 
A Sokdnta of the first order, that of a Cau Fa prince, not having 

been performed for many years, little is remembered of it by most 
Siamese. But it is probable that the festival would be carried out 
on something approaching its former scale were there the occasion 
for it ; and, since no king of the present dynasty (except the founder) 
has failed to undergo the Sokanta, it is important to consider the 
sociological value of this ceremony in connection with the kingship. 
The effect which the ceremonies have on the onlookers is not of primary 
importance, since the Tonsure occurs within the precincts of the 
Grand Palace, and is witnessed only by a comparatively small number 
of people. On the other hand, as with all initiation ceremonies, it is 


the effect upon the initiate himself that is the essential feature, and 
from this follows the indirect but equally important effect which the 
initiation has on the welfare of the people as a whole. Indeed, the 
SoJcdnta of a Can Fa prince, who is later to be a king, undoubtedly has 
been an institution of great sociological value in Siam in the past, and 
will continue to be such so long as the present conception of the 
monarchy exists. However ignorant of the meaning of the complicated 
rites the young prince may be, he must at least subconsciously realize 
that this festival signifies a break with childhood days, that he must 
begin to take life seriously, and that lie is a person of great importance 
on whom will eventually rest the responsibility for the welfare of the 
people. Again, I often heard it remarked at the time of the last 
coronation that the proceedings must have constituted a great ordeal 
for the King, the speakers evidently thinking that he had experienced 
nothing like it before. They had evidently forgotten the Sokdnta, 
than which no finer training for a possible heir to the throne in regal 
bearing and the duties that might later be required of him could 
possibly be conceived. Taking place in early youth, the most 
impressionable period of his life, this first lesson is never likely to be 

Unfortunately, signs are not wanting that this important institu- 
tion is not likely forever to escape the undermining influences of the 
West. Young princes brought up, as they will be in the future, in 
surroundings bristling with European influences, and having had 
their first taste of life in one of the modern " public schools " of 
Bangkok, will look askance at this seemingly incongruous episode. 
There is, indeed, evidence that Siamese youth never did take very 
kindly to the ceremony ; for example, in the case of the SoJcdnta of 
Prince Issaresra Cudamani in 1821 : This young prince was evidently 
possessed of a mind of his own, for after having fainted at one stage 
of the long drawn-out proceedings, he next day stubbornly refused 
to be dressed in the state robes and coiffed in the heavy coronet, 
exclaiming, " D'ye think you can yet deck and daub me up like a 
mannikin ? " l 

1 Ge. (1), p. 144. 




1. Preliminary Considerations. 

Cremation is the only means of disposal of the remains of deceased 
royalty in Siam. It is, in fact, the means by which the vast majority 
of the Siamese people dispose of their dead, the exceptions being 
criminals, victims of cholera and smallpox, people who have been 
struck by lightning, and women who have died in childbirth, whose 
corpses are buried. These exceptions are explained either by fear of 
the fatal disease, or by fear of the phi (ghosts). 

The cremation of a royal person (known as kara parama saba, kara 
brah mem or thavay brah blo'n) differs from that of a noble or commoner 
by reason of the extreme length and elaboration of all the ceremonies 
connected with it; as well as by reason of the fact that 
whereas the cremation of the ordinary Siamese is almost entirely 
Buddhist, the cremation of royalty is Buddhist superimposed on a 
Hindu basis, and accompanied by the survival of much Brahmanical 

In Siam it is usual to store the bodies of deceased princes and 
princesses until a number are awaiting cremation, when the obsequies 
are carried out with pomp and circumstance befitting their rank. 
A kipg, however, is always honoured with a special cremation, the 

1 Sources : I know of few Siamese texts providing information concerning the 
Cremation. However, (1) H.R.H. Prince Damrong's Tdmnan susan hlvan vat debsi- 
nndra (History of the Royal (Vernation Ground of Vat Debsirindra), Bangkok, 1927, 
supplies some valuable facts; (2) Kathmay hetu nan brah meru gran krunkau (Treatise 
on (Vernation Buildings in the Ayudhya period), an eighteenth century MS. (published 
by the Royal Institute in 1916), would be of greater value in a study of Siamese 
architecture than in the present work ; (3) " Siamese Customs for the Dying and 
Dead," Bangkok Calendar, 1864, has an interesting account of cremation buildings 
of the early reigns of the present dynasty ; (4) Leclere's La Cremation et les Rites 
Funeraires du Cambodge (Hanoi, 1906), has been of great assistance, especially in 
indicating certain rites which have now disappeared from the Siamese ceremony. 
Perhaps my most important source of information has been (5) an official \*ho has been 
intimately connected with the carrying out of royal cremations for many years, and 
is extremely well versed in the technique, but who prefers that his name should not 
be divulged. (6)1 was fortunate in being in Bangkok on the occasions of the cremation 
of the late H.R.H. Prince Asdang (heir presumptive, 1924), and of the late King 
Rama VI (1926), and was able personally to observe the more public rites I was 
also present as a guest at a number of ordinary Siamese cremations. 



magnificence of which greatly exceeds that of even the highest royal 
prince. Very rarely a high dignitary of the Buddhist Church has 
been accorded the honour of a royal cremation of a magnificence 
equalling that of a king. For example, the Sdngharaja (Patriarch), 
who died in 1822, at the age of 90, 

" was placed in a great gilded urn, an honour reserved for the king 
and princes of high rank, and was cremated during the following 
May, on the site for royal cremations." x 

A king was usually not cremated until many months after death 
but in the case of the late King Rama VI the cremation, which on 
no account could have taken place until after the hundredth day rite 
had been performed, was carried out only four months after death. 
This curtailment of the time devoted to lying-in-state was not the 
only reduction made in the ceremonies. In fact, both the late King 
and King Rama V, had given strict orders that their cremations were 
to be on a smaller scale than had previously been thought necessary, 
and they had in view the saving of trouble and expense. This being 
the case, although I shall make the cremation of the late King Rama VI 
the basis for study, I shall be obliged to complete the picture by 
reference to the proceedings of earlier occasions. 

There is one question which I feel sure has already arisen in the 
mind of the reader, and that is as to why I include " Cremation " 
under the heading of " Ceremonies of Installation ". This is a question 
which cannot satisfactorily be answered at the present juncture, and 
I must therefore crave patience until the latter part of the next 
chapter. I must now proceed with the detailed description of the 

2. Ceremonies performed shortly before the dying King expires. 

When it is seen that the condition of a king is very grave, he is, 
if possible, removed to a special apartment in the Royal Residence 
reserved for such occasions. King Rama VI died there, but his father 
died in another palace, since he was too ill to be moved to the Grand 
Palace. In the days of Old Siam certain Buddhist priests of high 
standing were then charged with the duty of writing scriptural texts 
in the Pali language on nine sheets of gold leaf shaped like sacred 
Bodhi leaves, which were placed on the nine principal parts of the 
body after death. This evidently corresponds to an ancient Vedic 
rite in which " the seven apertures of the body (nose, etc.) were 
covered with gold pieces ". 2 The bed used to be draped with white 
material, and paintings representing scenes in paradise were suspended 

1 JSS., xxiv, Oct., 1930, pt. 1, p. 15. 2 Barnett, Antiquities of India, p. 148. 


















in order to draw the dying man's attention away from earthly scenes 
to a contemplation of the future beatified state. The king was 
watched day and night by members of the royal family and ladies of 
the palace, the latter preserving the utmost calm until the doctors had 
pronounced life to be extinct, when they gave themselves up to loud 
lamentations. I understand on good authority that none of these 
rites were performed at the death of the late King. 

3. Bathing and adorning the Royal Corpse and placing it in the Urn. 

As soon as the King had breathed his last, the royal princes 
approached and placed him on his back, closing the eyelids and mouth, 
and covering the body (brah parama saba) with a golden shroud, while 
two candles were lighted. The princes then immediately gathered in 
another room in order to confirm the new King's accession. This 
pressing business of State had to be attended to without any delay, 
since the welfare of the living is even more important than that of 
the dead. This meeting concluded, the royal family assembled and 
bathed the corpse with scented water, afterwards placing it on a 
beautiful gilded bed. 

The next duty was to dress the body and prepare it for the Urn. 
Silk drawers embroidered with gold, and a cloth-of-gold pM-nuh 
clothe the lower part of the body, above which is an embroidered vest 
of yellow silk and an amice (sdhvian). Silken gloves and socks are 
also put on, gold plaques are placed on chest and sides, and baldricks 
studded with diamonds are crossed over the ches.t. There are gold 
shoes and epaulettes (chalohso), heavy gold bracelets, anklets, and 
rings, and a golden mask (dohgit braJt bhaktra) covers the face, symbolic 
of the radiant visage of a god. A pair of gilt candles, a lotus, and a 
pair of gold horns containing areca nut wrapped in betel leaf are placed 
in the hands, and a silken mala hat is set upon the head (PL XX). 

The corpse having been left thus for half an hour, the Urns are 
brought to the foot of the bed. The inner one (con iio'n) is of silver, 
with a lid that can be hermetically sealed. The outer one (brah kosa 
don hyai) is of great magnificence, being of gold ornamented with 
the nine gems and capped by a tapering pyramidal spire. The height 
of the inner Urn is about 1.20 metres, and the breadth at the widest 
part 0.60 metres, while the height of the outer Urn to the top of the 
spire is 3.00 metres. The outer Urn is octagonal in shape, and the 
spire has the form of a mankut. It was used both for the Lying-in- 
StatejDf King Rama VI and his father, King Rama V, and for all 
Can Fa princes and princesses who have died in recent years. 

In former times it used to be the custom at this stage in the 


preparations to remove the mask from the face of the dead king and 
pour a certain quantity of mercury down the throat with the object 
of expediting the drying of the corpse. This process is still carried 
out in Cambodia, but according to my informant, and contrary to 
the common opinion amongst Europeans, this has not been done for 
very many years in Siam. It is, however, still the custom to place a 
gold ring in the mouth, which may be the equivalent of the coin that 
is placed in the mouth of any dead commoner. Graham l states that 
with the common people this coin is intended to pay the toll at the 
gates of paradise. If the gold ring truly corresponds to the coin it 
can only be regarded as the survival of a very primitive idea, for such 
an idea seems curiously incongruous in connection with the death of 
a divine monarch. 

The corpse is next tk invited " (jon brah saba) to sit on a small camp- 
bed. The trunk is lifted, the palms joined opposite the face by means 
of an iron clamp, a sort of wedge is placed under the chin, and the 
knees are lifted to the level of the hands and tied in a sitting position. 
The corpse, thus seated, is placed on sixteen long strips of cotton 
material, the ends of which are raised and tied over the top of the 
head. The new King then sets the late King's Personal Kathina Crown 
upon the head of the corpse, and suspends a heavy gold chain studded 
with diamonds around the neck. In this position the corpse is saluted 
by all present, then lifted and placed in the inner Urn which in turn is 
placed within the outer gold one. The term used to express the late 
King now that he is seated within the Urn is brah cau yu hua nai 
parama kosa. 

It will be seen from the above account that the dead king is arrayed 
in richer attire than he ever wore in his lifetime. That this funeral 
state has preserved the splendid accoutrements which ancient kings 
actually wore when they were alive we may be sure, for we see such 
things on the reliefs of Ahkor and in the dress of the modern Siamese 
dancers when impersonating kings and heroes. An interesting feature 
in the preparation of the corpse is that the hands are joined in an 
attitude of supplication. This is a late Buddhist modification, adopted 
to show that the deceased monarch, be he regarded as Bodhisattva 
or Hindu deity, pays homage to the Buddha. 

The above ceremonies of preparation are all carried out by 
members of the Royal Family in conjunction with officials of the Royal 
Wardrobes Department. The Court Brahmans take no part in these 
rites in Siam, though in Cambodia they still assist in the bathing of 
the corpse. 

1 Siam, i, 164. 


4. Transfer to the Tusita Mahd Prasada, and ceremonies connected 
with the Lying-in-State. 

All the private ceremonies described above took place, in the 
case of the late King Rama VI, on the day of his death, 25th November, 
1926, and that same day the corpse within the Urns was transferred 
to the Tusita Maha Prasada to lie in state. In Cambodia, according 
to Leclere, the preliminary ceremonies were spread over several days, 
and the brah can yu hua mzz parama kosa was kept in the royal residence 
for two months, before being transferred to lie in state. 

The procession from the Cakrabartibimnn to the Tusita Hall was 
a short one, since it only had to traverse a few hundred yards through 
the grounds of the Grand Palace. It consisted of the usual drummers 
of victory, processional umbrella-bearers, gentlemen-at-arms, and 
Brahmans playing ceremonial instruments. The great Urn was borne 
on a gilded palanquin under an immense nine-tiered umbrella of State, 
and accompanied by large single-tiered umbrella, fan, and sunshade. 
Behind the palanquin walked King Prajadhipok, also shaded by an 
umbrella, and accompanied by the princes. It was a small procession, 
but it was impressive because it was personal, almost a family affair ; 
and it took place in venerable surroundings, with an absence of that 
display of modern militarism which, however great its sociological 
value, always seems to strike a jarring note in every State Ceremony 
where it is present. 

In the western apse of the Tusita Maha Prasada stood the royal 
catafalque, on which the Urn was to be placed in state. A special 
inclined plane was used for placing the Urn in position both on the 
catafalque and later on the pyre, the Urn being slowly drawn up by 
means of pulleys, to the accompaniment of the blowing of conches 
and the firing of guns. This undertaking was known as jo'n brah 
saba khu'n brah den, i.e. inviting the corpse to be seated. It is a variation 
of the taboo mentioned on page 36, concerning the King not being 
supposed to touch the ground, the Urn seeming to glide up the plane 
and take its position on the catafalque in a god-like manner. 

I did not see the Urn on the catafalque until several weeks of the 
Lying-in-State had passed by. It was on the occasion when the 
Lord Chamberlain placed a silver wreath at the base of the catafalque 
on behalf of the Kram Mahhatlek. The Urn, over which hung from 
the ceiling a great nine-tiered white umbrella, presented an impressive 
spectacle on the summit of the pyramidal catafalque (fhanven fa) 
of graduated stages, decorated with flowers and candies, and illuminated 
by means of electricity (PI. XXI). It is the opinion of Prince Damrong 
that this catafalque is modelled on the shrine called Baksai Chamkrong 


at Ankor Thorn. 1 Before it were placed offerings of food and flowers, 
renewed daily, and to right and left were glass cases containing the 
late monarch's uniforms and personal possessions, while his decorations 
were laid on cushions. At each of the four corners of the catafalque 
stood a sentinel, and the Urn was never for one instant left without 
this military guard during the period of Lying-in-State. From the 
base of the Urn there depended on the east, north, and south sides a 
long embroidered ribbon (brah bhiisdyon) about 6 inches wide. The 
lower ends of each of these ribbons rested on a gold tray at the base 
of the catafalque. Their significance is in connection with the 
Satagakarana rite, as will shortly be explained. 

The daily ceremonies, carried out during the Lying-in-State were as 
follows : Day and night four Buddhist monks, who were relieved every 
few hours, kept up an almost incessant chanting in a kind of choir-stall 
some distance from the catafalque (PL XXTI). They ceased only to 
have a smoke and a cup of tea or to renew their quids of betel. At the 
Lying-in-State of former monarchs they also ceased when the wailing 
palace women came to lament before the Urn, to the accompaniment 
of the blowing of conches. This they used to do five times a day, each 
period lasting about half an hour, but this rite was omitted in the 
case of King Rama VI. The food which was daily placed before the 
late King's Urn was, so I was informed by his chef, in accordance 
with his favourite menus, and was served at his customary mealtimes. 

On certain days the Tusita Maha Prasada was open for the various 
government departments and for the general public to pay their 
respects before the Urn. Wreaths were placed by high officials and 
members of the Diplomatic Corps at the base of the catafalque, and 
every Siamese present crawled up to a position in front of the catafalque 
and about 20 feet from it, and saluted in the traditional manner 
by lowering the head and raising the joined palms three times, then 
crawling away. The utmost awe was noticeable in the behaviour of 
the officials in the presence of the Urn. None would have thought 
of standing while paying his respects, and thus we see the old custom 
of prostration surviving in the presence of the dead King long after 
it has disappeared in the presence of the living one. 

From the day of King Rama VI's death until some time after the 
actual cremation, the whole nation was in mourning. The mourning 
colour in Siam is white ; but officials of high rank also wear a gold 
sash. Up to the fourth reign it was compulsory for every Siamese, 
male and female, to shave the head during the period of mourning. 
The only exceptions were in favour of the new King and princes 
1 Tamnan Susan hlvaft, p. 2, n. 1. 


[Photo ; Xnrasutyli Stwfio. 


[To face- page U2, 


1 Photo : Ntt whin/I Mntlin 



older than the deceased monarch, but this custom has now been 
completely abolished. The Coronation of King Prajadhipok took 
place during the period of mourning, and this led to the strange 
procedure of suspending the mourning regulations for a time, so that 
the people might duly celebrate the Coronation, but the ceremonies 
around the Urn continued as usual. 

On certain days during the four months of the Lying-in-State, there 
were special religious services in the Tusita Hall. Of greatest 
importance were the seventh, fiftieth, and hundredth day rites, the 
latter being the earliest day after which Cremation of a royal person 
can be performed. Then there were special services on the Van Brah, 
or Buddhist Sabbaths, i.e. the eighth day of the waxing moon, the full 
moon, and the eighth and fifteenth days of the waning. There were 
also special services on the 23rd February, the day before cremation, 
and on the 24th, in the morning, immediately before removal from 
the Tusita Maha Prasada. 

The King visited the Tusita Hall every day up to the hundredth day 
after which his place was taken by other princes. On these visits he 
lit candles in front of the image of the Buddha on the altar at the 
east end of the Hall, and then lit candles in front of the Urn. On the 
special days a high dignitary of the Church and a chapter of thirty 
Lords Abbot chanted stanzas suitable for the occasion, usually from 
the Abhidharma. The King then laid down cloths and robes for the 
Ratagakamna Kite, in which the monks chant the gansakula verse 1 
and hold the ends of the pendant ribbons above mentioned, thereby 
transferring to the robes offered by the King the special merits supposed 
to belong to cloths found in graveyards, which merit accrues to the 
deceased king. 

On the special days above mentioned, Chinese and Annamite 
monks performed their customary obsequial rites in the courtyard 
adjoining the Tusita Hall, where a number of altars had been erected 
for them. In front of these altars were a number of models of various 
kinds, boats, houses, torpedo-boats, figures of persons attired in 
various costumes, all beautifully made down to the smallest detail, 
but only of paper. Following the Cremation they were burnt near to 
the water's edge, in accordance with the old Chinese funeral custom, 
which is founded on the idea that such models have their spiritual 
counterparts, and that such will be of use to the departed spirit in the 
next world. As now performed in Siam, these foreign rites merely 
reveal the desire of the Chinese and Annamite communities to identify 

1 I have not seen the Siamese pahsakula verse, but a Siamese to whom I showed 
the one used in Ceylon and quoted on p. 158, states that it is the same. 


themselves with the general display of mourning for the loss of the 
monarch under whose protection they have dwelt, just as the Christian 
Churches also hold memorial services. But the custom is an ancient 
one in Siam, and I suggest that it was fostered to enhance the dignity 
of the monarchy in the eyes of the common people, even to persuade 
them that China and Annam were tributary States. 

During the course of the Lying-in-State certain rites in connection 
with the urned remains were carried out. The base of the inner Urn 
is in the form of an iron grating, and from the outer Urn a copper 
tube passed down into the hollow catafalque where the depositions 
accumulated in a golden vase. Access to the interior of the catafalque 
was obtained by means of a small door on the western face, and each 
alternate day until the corpse was dry and no further liquids dripped 
from the tube, that is to say until about two months after death, an 
attendant entered and removed the vase. This was then borne in 
procession to Vat Mahadhatu where, ever since its foundation in the 
first reign, the sanies of kings and princes of high rank have been 
burned. They are first poured into a wide metal tray and covered 
with dry sugar cane and incense which absorbs them. The resulting 
compound is then burned and the ashes are kept to be mixed with those 
resulting from the cremation of the paranmsaba, to be disposed of as will 
later be described. After the sanies have ceased to drip from the 
Urn, flowers and odoriferous woods are placed within the catafalque. 

During the Lying-in-State the sacred fire, to be used at the crema- 
tion, is kept burning on an altar in the Tusita Hall in a lamp which 
is watched with great care. It was formerly the custom to preserve 
the fire from any building that had been struck by lightning. Thus : 

" In the reign of P'ooti Yawt Fa (Rama I), grandfather of his 

E resent Majesty (Rama IV), the royal audience hall was destroyed 
y lightning. It is commonly believed that the fire taken from that 
conflagration, has been kept constantly burning in the palace, and 
is used on occasions like the above." l 

Nowadays the sacred fire, like that which is used to light the 
Candle of Victory, is obtained from the sun by means of a burning- 
glass, and hence is ceremonially pure. 

5. The Funeral Pyre. 

Soon after the death of the late King, work began on the construc- 
tion of the funeral pyre, called Brah Mem because it symbolizes Mount 
Meru, the home of Visnu and Indra (PI. XXIII). This great building was 
erected on the Royal Cremation Ground, a wide, grassy expanse near the 

1 Bangkok Calendar, 1864, p. 65. 


: Nnramnffh . 


To face 145. J 


Grand Palace, which is also used for kite-flying and other sports when 
not required for Royal Cremations. The size and elaboration of the 
Brah Meru has been much reduced since the cremation of King 
Rama IV ; in fact, this is the feature which has suffered more than 
any other, as a result of the prevailing desire to economize. The 
expenditure in the case of the pyre used for the cremation of Rama VI 
is said to have been only one-eighth of that lavished on the previous 
King's Meru. 

The great expenditure on this structure is largely necessitated by 
reason of the fact that all the materials must be new, and can never 
be used again for a like purpose. Formerly, at least, the timber could 
only be given to the monks for the repair of their monasteries ; but 
the fate of the materials used in certain recent princely cremations 
is better left unrecorded. 

The Meru, which was illuminated by a multitude of electric lamps 
at night, stood in the centre of a square space of about an acre in 
extent, enclosed by a lattice rdjavdt fence, which was decorated at 
intervals with tiered umbrellas. Against this fence, on the inner side, 
were built galleries and pavilions for the accommodation of monks, 
nobles, and officials, and with a most splendidly decorated pavilion for 
King Prajadhipok. Until the reign of King Rama V the animal 
effigies which used to take part in the procession were also housed in 
these galleries. At each of the four corners were towers, formerly 
elevated high above the ground, but at King Rama VI's cremation 
built at ground level. Each tower was for the accommodation of a 
party of four monks, frequently relieved by others, who chanted 
verses from the Buddhist scriptures on the Day of Cremation. Access 
to the interior of the enclosure was obtained by means of four gate- 
ways, one in the middle of each side. The Brah Meru erected in the 
centre was, in former reigns, an enormous structure, the skeleton 
consisting of four immense teak trunks, from 200 to 250 feet long, 
and each with a circumference of about 12 feet. These logs were 
obtained by royal order from four different provinces in the North, 
and were selected from virgin jungle. They were embedded in the 
ground 30 feet deep, their bases forming a square, and the trunks 
were made to lean slightly together to form a truncated pyramid. 
At the top they were joined by a roof upon which was erected a gilded 
grcisdda spire. The late King's Meru was erected in this manner, 
but the tip of the grdsdda spire was only about 150 feet above the 
ground. It was, however, very graceful, and the architects had shown 
great ingenuity in fashioning the upper part t6 represent the four 
faces of Brahma, above which tapered the mankut-like spire crowned 


by the late King's crest, which in turn was surmounted by a small 
tiered umbrella. Under the lofty roof of the great teak pyramid was 
built a floor at about 20 feet from the ground, which was reached by 
four terraced flights of steps, one of which was reserved for the King. 
The stairs and terraces were ornamented with tiered umbrellas and 
devatd figures holding large sunshades. On the floor of the Meru was 
erected the brah penca, or Pyre Proper, an octagonal pyramid 
diminishing by right-angled gradations, and terminating in a truncated 
top. The one used for the late King's Cremation was made of iron with 
gilt overlay. High above it hung a beautifully embroidered white 
umbrella of nine tiers, while the red and gold teak pillars were draped 
with heavy cloth of gold curtains, and each of the four sides of the 
open pyramid formed by these pillars was fitted with doors, on which 
conventional designs of birds and mythical figures were worked in 
silk. But one no longer saw the interesting painted scenes of heaven 
and hell, and the pictures illustrating life in the Siamese dependencies 
which used to ornament the walls of cremation buildings, nor the 
artificial lakes, hills, and houses that were in former reigns built 
around the Meru to give the semblance of Indra's paradise. 1 

In Old Siam a large part of the Cremation Ground, outside the 
square enclosure, was dotted with temporary buildings of many 
kinds, and their abolition, and that of the customs with which they 
were connected, has struck one of the greatest blows at the traditional 
Royal Cremation. Outside the enclosure and near the middle of each 
of the four walls was a platform on which was placed an artificial 
tree, the branches of which were heavily loaded with green and 
yellow limes. There was also a brilliantly decorated royal pavilion. 
Here the King stood on the Day of Cremation, and distributed wooden 
limes from a golden bowl to the nobles and high officials around him, 
while officials appointed for the purpose stood on the platforms and 
scattered the limes from the artificial trees amongst the eager people 
massed below. These trees represented the Pdrijdta or Kdlpavrksa 
Tree of Indra's paradise or, according to the Buddhist interpretation, 
the four trees that will be found one in each of the four corners of the 
city in which the next Buddha is to be born, and which will bear not 
only money but everything else that man will need for his comfort 
under the coming Buddha's reign. Each wooden lime contained 
either a coin or a promissory note of a certain specified value, such as 

1 Although in most of the cremations of commoners that I have witnessed, th& 
Meru consisted of a simple canopy erected on four posts over a pyre, on one occasion 
at Labapuri I saw a very interesting artificial mountain about 20 feet high from 
the side of which issued a figure of Indra mounted on his elephant. It was a definite 
attempt to represent the traditional Meru. 


a boat, house, or garden, which when presented to the treasury were 
regularly paid. On the occasion of the late King's Cremation this 
distribution of limes was carried out on a very small scale only and 
on the day of the collection of the relics. 

Other buildings were a large refreshment hall where all except the 
lowest classes could obtain food and drinks without charge ; stands 
for the letting off of fireworks; and a great variety of theatrical 
entertainments and other side-shows. With the exception of the 
refreshment hall, all these were abolished in accordance with the wish 
of King Kama V, who considered that such celebrations did not 
harmonize with the dignity which ought to characterize the royal 
obsequies. But this interference with tradition seems to me to be a 
mistake ; such entertainments are highly appreciated by the people, 
and even commoners, unless very poor, do their best to provide at their 
cremations at least one theatrical performance, or nowadays a cinema. 
Such a reduction in the grandeur of the royal obsequies cannot fail 
to decrease the popularity of a Royal Cremation, and, what is more, 
decrease its impressiveness and sociological value. 

6. Transfer in Procession of the Urn from the Tusita Mahd Prdsdda 
to the Brah Mem. 

On the morning of the Day of Cremation, and immediately after 
the last Buddhist service, the Urn was lifted down from the catafalque. 
During this process, and throughout the following rites, the mournful 
music of the Brahmans was played unceasingly. The outer Urn was 
removed, and the inner one was opened. The King removed the crown 
from the head of the paramasaba and placed it on a small table. Then 
the corpse was removed from the Urn and placed on a bed covered with 
a white mat. Next all the gold ornaments and attire were taken off. 
Only the bones remained, and these, if they fell to pieces, were 
rearranged in the form of a human skeleton. The King, the Patriarch, 
and the nobles poured cocoa-nut water over the bones, which were then 
tied up in white cloth and replaced in the inner Urn. 

In the case of the cremation of King Rama VI, as soon as the 
above ceremonies had been completed, the inner Urn containing the 
remains was carried out of the Tusita Hall and placed on a palanquin, 
the outer Urn being then replaced. Thus the paramasaba was borne 
on the palanquin the short distance separating the Grand Palace from 
the neighbouring monastery, Vat Jetavana. It was an intimate 
personal procession, and has been well described as a family farewell 
to the Royal Remains which were leaving their home for the last 
time. Apart from a few ceremonial attendants and guards, only the 


King and the royal princes down to the rank of Brah Anga Cau followed 
the palanquin on foot, and the route was lined only by the servants 
of the palace, all attired in white. 

When this procession reached the main road leading to the 
Cremation Ground, it met the Grand Funeral Procession already drawn 
up, and the Urn was transferred by means of the inclined plane to the 
Great Funeral Car (PL XXIV). Thenceforward the route was lined 
by almost the entire population of Bangkok, and large numbers of 
people who had come from outlying districts to pay their last respects 
to the late King. 

The Grand Funeral Procession was composed of the following 
elements, and in the order below detailed : 


Many units representative of all arms, with modern equipment, which 
need not be mentioned in detail. 

Two three-tailed Flags 

Four metal Drums 

160 Red Drums of Victory 

Twenty Silver Drums of Victory 

Twenty Gold Drums of Victory 

Two Headmen of the Pipe 

Two Headmen of the War Drum 

Twenty Blowers of the Foreign Bugle 

Twenty-eight Blowers of the Siamese Bugle (horn-shaped) 

Four Blowers of Conch Shells 

Two Inspectors of the Bugle 

Two seven- tiered Umbrellas, six five-tiered, and four Sunshades 

Three Sword Bearers 

One Bearer of the Priest's Fan of Honour 

Royal Car with the Prince Patriarch reading the Scriptures 

Four Sword Bearers 
One Royal Umbrella 
One Large Sunshade 

One Royal Fan ^ 

S Eight Representatives of Indra with lances 5T 

<3 |g Eight Representatives of Brahma with lances S, 

ts P Eight pairs of Civilian Guards (high officials of the Ministry of Justice) g 

g 5? Two seven-tiered Umbrellas, four five-tiered, and two Sunshades 17 3- 

| | Two Sword Bearers e[ A. 

^ P5 Two seven-tiered Umbrellas, fourteen five-tiered, and twelve Sunshades ^ o 

^ | Six Sword Bearers ? O 

^ The Great Funeral Car bearing the Urn, and two officials dressed as W a 
", 3 devata ; drawn by a hundred Army Men and a hundred Navy Men, '^ J3 

." and with six Horses yoked to it. IJ ? 

J3 o gj P 

g : One Royal Umbrella ^ p> 

jg One Large Sunshade ' g 

S One Royal Fan 




\Ti) jttt'c jMfii' 148. 




Sixteen Representatives of Indra and Brahma, bearing silver and 

gold ornamental Trees (bhum tdk mai iio'n dbn) 

Two seven-tiered Umbrellas, ten five-tiered, and eight Sunshades 

Two Palace Officials with personal effects 

Four Sword Bearers 
Sixteen Pages with spears 
Sixteen Pages with flowers 
Four Chargers with eighteen men in attendance 


Eight Royal Lictors in two lines (bearing peacock feathers instead of rattans) 

Monkey Standard Garuda Standard 

The King, walking 

Royal Umbrella 

Ten Aides-de-Camp 
i 1* 

Princes of the Royal House down to Hmbm Caus of ban ddn (golden bowl) 


Special Representatives of Foreign Sovereigns and States 
Foreign Representatives and Ministers 
Officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
Officials of Ministry of Royal Household 

High Officials of other Ministries 
Pupils of the Schools under the Royal Patronage 
Two Battalions of the 1st Infantry Guards Regiment 
Navy Band 
Navy Men 

The greater part of this long procession calls for no particular 
comments, since it is mostly composed of those bearers of ceremonial 
insignia of which enough has already been said in the chapter dealing 
with Coronation. The procession is on a very grand scale, due to the 
desire to pay the highest respect to the deceased monarch. But really 
the difference between the Coronation and the Cremation processions 
is rather one of degree and arrangement than of kind. It is to be noted 
that the Brahman blowers of the conch wear pointed hats from 
beneath which their long hair streams loose as a sign of mourning. 
This is the most important part that they now play in the Cremation 

The features of greatest interest are the Cars of the Patriarch and 
of the Urn. These great vehicles, running on four wheels, are built 
up like a series of massive carved and gilded barges, but very short 
and broad, and seemingly superimposed in graduated sizes. At 
Ankor there were wheeled cars in the classical period, which Groslier 
thinks were drawn by men and used for funeral purposes. 1 If the 
modern Siamese Car was derived from that of Cambodia, it has 
greatly changed, and the boat-shaped build, the graceful brah-di-ndh 
and tall spire, instead of the rectangular pavilion and prang-like tower 

1 Gr., p. 101 and fig. 63, b. 


of the ancient Khmer car, seem to betoken that Burmese, or rather 
M6n, influence, which has already been noticed in the case of the 
royal barges. 

Unfortunately, several of the most remarkable features of the 
traditional Royal Cremation Procession must be spoken of as belonging 
to the past, since they have been omitted in recent times. These 
are as follows : 

(1) It was the custom, until the Cremation of the late King, for two 
young princes to ride on a Car between the Patriarch's Car and that 
bearing the Urn. A strip of silver cloth, 6 inches wide, was attached 
to the thighs of the Patriarch, whence it passed back to the princes 
in the second Car, and finally back to the Urn to which it was attached 
(PL XXV). One of the two young princes held the ribbon, and the 
other scattered roasted grains. This ribbon formed the mystic connec- 
tion between the Book, the Royal Family, and the Urn, in the same 
way that a similar ribbon gave mystic connection between the Urn 
and the monks, during the Lying-in-State. When the Urn had been 
transferred to the Brah Meru, the silver ribbon was extended over the 
Urn, down the eastern and western sides of the brah pencd, and thence 
on a Brussels carpet, protected by white muslin, nearly to the flight 
of steps on the east and west sides of the building. This ribbon was 
stretched between the Cars in the Cremation procession of King 
Rama V, and even in that of the Queen Mother who died in 1922 ; 
if its omission at the late King's Cremation was due to the fact that 
he had no sons, perhaps we may hope for its restoration at some 
future time. 

(2) The effigy of a rhinoceros took part in the procession, carrying 
a small pavilion on its back in which was the sacred fire (Fig. 1 ). ' It is 
interesting to note that a rhinoceros is figured in the reliefs of Aiikor 
Vat, 1 though what its function was is not known. The sacred fire 
was apparently then carried on a palanquin, and such sacred fire 
processions are depicted on the reliefs at Bayon, Ankor, and Banteai 
Chhma. 2 

(3) After the rhinoceros there used to follow a host of more than 
sixty effigies of mythical animals, representing the denizens of the 
Himaphan or Himalayan fairyland. A complete list of them is given 
in the appendix to this chapter, and it will be seen that the names 
of some of them indicate Chinese origin, which is also borne out by 
their appearance. But many of them, especially the more human 
ones, are derived from India, and preserve the characteristics of 
Siamese styles of the Ayudhya period. These effigies were drawn along 

1 A., iii, p. 237. 2 A., ii, p. 340, iii, pp. 168 and 261. 


[To face paqe 150. 


in the procession on small wheels, and in small shrines on their backs 
they bore the King's offerings to religion. Their significance seems to 
be in connection with the Buddhist idea of every living creature from 
every plane of existence coming to worship at the feet of the Buddha ; 
but they also have an earlier Hindu significance as we saw in connection 
with the Tonsure where they came to witness the initiation of Ganesa. 
The rhinoceros and all the rest of the strange company were abolished 
by King Rama V ; but they still survive ab Cremations in Cambodia. 

To return to the proceedings at the Cremation of Rama VI : When 
the great procession arrived at the Cremation Ground, the troops 
formed up in serried ranks facing each side of the Brah Meru enclosure, 
and the Great Funeral Car was halted at the northern entrance. Then 
the Urn was transferred to a gun-carriage (this is a modern substitute 
for a palanquin), and the King made the gesture of personally receiving 
the Urn thereon, the process being accompanied by the blowing of 
conches. Then followed the traditional circumambulation of the Urn 
around the Brah Meru within the enclosure. This is, of course, the 
Hindu prasavya circumambulation performed on inauspicious occasions 
with the left shoulder turned to the object in the centre. The process 
is known in Siamese as uttaravatra. 

The procession which thus three times circumambulated the Meru 
was necessarily a small one. First came the Prince Patriarch, carried 
on a palanquin, then the gun-carriage with the Urn, followed by the 
King and the princes walking. At the base of the Urn were wreathed 
the Siamese colours, at the front rested on a golden bowl the late 
King's Field Marshal's helmet, while behind was his Admiral's cocked 
hat. A rope of fresh flowers was placed round the foot of the Urn, 
and before it was carried the late King's personal flag draped with 
mauve ribbons of mourning. The gun-carriage was drawn by men 
of the Royal Palace Guards, accompanied by the usual insignia of 
rank, and shielded by a state umbrella, while during the circumambula- 
tion the ceremonial instruments were sounded. 

The gun-carriage came to a halt at the eastern stairway leading up 
to the Meru, while the King proceeded to a throne facing the western 
entrance, so that he could supervise the placing of the Urn on the 
Pyre. All the other units of the procession now retired, leaving only 
the gun-carriage, surrounded by the scarlet-clad drummers and conch 
blowers who sounded their instruments ceaselessly while the inner 
Urn, the outer one having been removed, was hoisted up by means 
of the inclined plane on to the brah penca. The late King's insignia 
having been placed before the Urn, the gilt doors of the Meru were 
opened and the King ascended the steep staircase on the western side. 


Lighting the candles before the Urn, the King knelt and did homage 
to the remains of his brother by raising the joined palms three times 
in the traditional manner. He then left at once for the Grand Palace 
by motor car. This was at about 11 a.m., and the final rites, which will 
be described in the next section, began at 4 p.m. 

7. The Final Rites. 

It was formerly the case for the Urn to remain in state on the Brah 
Mem for about fifteen days before the date of actual Cremation, which 
date was fixed by the Brahyd Hora. Prior to these fifteen days, sacred 
relics were placed on the Pyre while the monks in the prayer towers, 
as well as large numbers in other parts of the enclosure, continued their 
chanting and the women their wailing until the Day of Cremation. 
But in the case of the late King, the remains were cremated the same 
day as the Urn was transferred to the Pyre. 

The period from about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. after the Urn had been 
placed in position, and before the final rites began, was left free for all 
such members of the public as were suitably dressed in mourning to 
enter the enclosure and pay homage with joined hands at the base 
of the Mem. 

It was formerly the custom to remove the Urn from the Meru on 
the Day of Cremation to a neighbouring building, called the " pavilion 
of perfumes ", where the long parcel of bones wrapped in the white 
shroud was removed from the Urn and laid on a white mat, to receive 
a last anointment with perfumed water by the King. In the case 
of the Cremation of King Rama VI, since the remains had already 
been washed and anointed that day, they were not taken down from 
the Mem, but the inner Urn (the outer one having already been 
removed) was replaced by one of sandal-wood decorated with silver 
flowers. This operation took place while the public homage was in 
progress, as also did the preparation of the pyre. Fragrant wood was 
aid in order in cross layers on the platform, and a bellows was attached 
to the pile. Precious spices were laid amongst the wood, and green 
banana logs were laid round the pile to prevent the fire from spreading 
too far and endangering the structure of the Meru. Men armed with 
water ladles were also stationed in readiness. 

When the King and Queen arrived in state palanquins in the 
afternoon, they took up their position in the royal pavilion facing the 
western side of the Meru. The Prince Patriarch preached a sermon, 
and fifty Lords Abbot chanted stanzas from the scriptures, the 
customary distribution of gifts to the officiating monks then taking 


place. The King and Queen then ascended the long stairway to 
apply the sacred fire. It was sunset and the masses of people stood in 
solemn silence. The King lit the sprays of sandal wood from the lamp 
containing the sacred fire and applied it to the pile which was kept 
alight by attendants, but not allowed to spread to the Urn at this 
time. 1 This was the supreme moment, and the first red flames were 
greeted by the roar of cannon, a fanfare of trumpets, and the playing 
of the National Anthem. The King and Queen knelt in final farewell 
before the pyre ; it was an impressive moment, and must have struck 
deeply into the hearts of the multitude, a moment which few who were 
present will ever forget. 

Rising from their knees, the King and Queen stood and faced the 
Urn for a few moments before retiring to their thrones. Princes and 
princesses, the former by the northern and the latter by the southern 
staircase, then ascended and added their offerings of lighted candles 
and sandal -wood to the fire which was still kept within small compass, 
and not yet allowed to spread to the Urn. Thereafter the King and 
Queen returned to the Palace by state palanquins, but the stream of 
nobles and officials continued to pay homage at the Meru until it was 
quite dark, and long after that the awed populace continued to sit 
and gaze at the illuminated spire. 

The rite of offering sandal-wood and candles at the Pyre which 
has been referred to in the last paragraph as a homage has really, 
according to Prince Damrong, a deeper significance which is understood 
by few Siamese. The underlying idea is that in placing these offerings 
on the Pyre the giver asks forgiveness for any wrong that he may have 
done the deceased during his lifetime. Originally a person whose 
conscience was quite clear had no need to perform this rite. 

The Actual Cremation took place at 10 o'clock at night, behind the 
drawn curtains of the Meru, the fire not having been allowed to die 
out since the time it was applied by the King. The flaming pile was 
carefully watched throughout the night by the attendants, who stirred 
it with pokers and saw that none of the bones escaped the fire. In 
the morning only a thin wisp of smoke remained, and consecrated 
water was poured on the hot cinders, in analogy to the miraculous 
shower of rain that extinguished the pyre of the Buddha. Then more 
water was thrown on the ashes from the four jars which stood one at 
each corner of the brah penca, possibly symbolizing the earthly water 
that was brought by the faithful Mallas and thrown on the pyre of 

1 This is the procedure in the case of a king's cremation. Jn the case of tho 
cremation of any other royal person, the King ignites the pile by means of a train of 
gunpowder without moving from his pavilion. 


the Buddha after it had been extinguished by the celestial 
shower. 1 

The ashes were then given roughly the form of a human figure 
with the head turned towards the east. They were then stirred up 
and reformed with the head turned towards the west. Finally the 
process was repeated with the head turned towards the east. This is 
evidently symbolic of the rising, setting, and again rising of the sun 
birth, death, and rebirth. A satagakamna rite was then performed by 
the monks in attendance, and the gifts of robes and food which the 
King had made to the monks during the Cremation ceremonies, were 
circumambulated three times around the Meru, prasavaya-wise 
(PI. XXVI). While they thus circumambulated, the guards and 
insignia-bearers kept constantly crying " Hoo ! hoo ! ". One might 
suppose that this was to keep off evil spirits, but Prince Damrong 
is of opinion that it is a relic of the far distant days when Buddhist 
cremations used to take place in deep jungle, and the cry served 
to prevent those who followed behind from losing their way. 

Not until the above rites had been completed did the search for 
relics begin, in which the King and Queen, the princes and princesses, 
and the ladies of the palace took part. The little fragments of burnt 
bone relics (dsthi) were placed on a plate on a stand. In former 
reigns the King used to place some of them each in a gold locket, and 
hand them to the children of the deceased monarch, who kept them 
until their deaths, after which they were usually enshrined in a stupa. 
This division of the relics is quite in accordance with Buddhist tradition 
but was not carried out at the late King's cremation, since he had no 
children except his baby daughter. The remainder of the relics (all, 
in the case of King Kama VI) were then perfumed and placed in a small 
golden urn, similar in appearance to the Great Urn, but only 50 centi- 
metres high. They were then carried in state to the Grand Palace where 
they are kept, but are brought out on certain occasions to be honoured 
by the reigning King. The ashes (angdra) (PI. XXVII), fragments 
of burnt wood, etc., together with the ashes previously produced at 
the burning of the sanies, of the first three kings of the dynasty are 
enshrined in Vat Brah Jetavana, those of Rama IV are at Vat Pavara- 
nivesa, those of King Kama V at Vat Pencamapabitra, while those of 
the late King Rama VI are partly enshrined at Vat Pavaranivesa, 
and partly in the great stupa at Nagara Pat ha ma. In the Ayudhya 
period the ashes used to be tied up in white cotton cloth, then placed 
in a white bag embroidered with gold, and taken in a royal barge to 
be jettisoned in mid-river. 

1 Mahn-Farinibbana Sutta, vi,' 49, 8 BE., xi, p. 130. 




CREMATION (continued) 

1. The History of the Siamese Royal Cremation. 

The Siamese Royal Cremation as it is, or rather as it was before 
it had been corrupted by the innovations and abolitions of the last 
fifty years, is undoubtedly a close copy of the Ayudhya form. So far 
as the buildings of the Brah Meru are concerned, we know from the 
eighteenth century MS. already mentioned that the royal architects 
of Bangkok have closely followed the Ayudhya model, and the 
Annals of Ayudhya give the following interesting account of a royal 
cremation : 

" His Majesty gave directions, that all necessary and suitable 
preparations he made for the cremation of the remains of H.M. the 
late King. The main building, which was to contain the urned remains, 
terminated in a spire and was 2 sen 11 wahs high. Similar but 
smaller buildings at the four points of the compass, and interspersed 
around the square enclosure, which was set apart as the cremation 
lot, were decorated with gold, pinchbeck, silver, arid other chats 
(umbrellas), and flags and other streamers and endless ornaments. 
The urned remains were placed in the gorgeous and beautiful car, 
and were escorted by a solemn procession of the magnates of the 
kingdom to the cremation buildings. The usual amusements, day 
and night ; religious ceremonies, plays, and theatrical performances 
were kept up for days, and the usual presents were made as at the 
cremation of all the kings of Siam. At the appointed day the torch 
was applied and the remains were reduced to ashes, and the usual 
ceremonies for preserving a few relics of the charred bones were 
observed/' l 

The seventeenth century European writers give but scanty details. 
La Loubere 2 mentions the use of mercury to drain the body, the large 
size of the pyres, the processions of mythical animal effigies, and the 
ignition of the pyre by the King, in the case of royal cremations, 
" without stirring out of his palace. He lets go a lighted torch along 
a rope, which is extended from one of the windows of the palace to 
the pile." Evidently the use of a train of gunpowder was not then 
understood. J. Struys 3 describes a funeral of a princess in more 

1 Reign of King ^arai[i.e.Narayana], translated by S. J. Smith, Bangkok, 1880. 

2 L. L., pp. 124 sq. 

3 Eng. ed., 1684, chap. vm. 


detail than any other old writer : the Urn was borne to the Meru in 
procession on a car. A silk band passed from this to the car in which 
the princes rode. " Oranges " containing money were thrown to 
the people. The pyre was lighted by the King himself, accompanied 
by doleful music. The oldest account by a European writer is that 
of Mendez Pinto, 1 who refers to events of the year 1545, but 
unfortunately the cremation ceremonies he describes are quite 
un-Siamese and unworthy of credence. 

The above evidence is sufficient to show that in every feature of 
importance the seventeenth century Koyal Cremation was the same as 
it is to-day. We know that there were no violent cultural changes 
during the four centuries of the Ayudhya period, and it was therefore 
about the fourteenth century that the Cremation took on its traditional 
Siamese form, as a result of the conversion of the Thai to Hmayanism 
in the period when Sukhodaya was capital. Then Cambodia was also 
converted, but has retained to this day many Brahmanical features 
which have disappeared from Siam. This fact, coupled with the fact 
that the cult of the Deva-raja was the principal royal religion up to 
the thirteenth century, even when Mahay anism was practised, can 
leave little doubt that the Koyal Cremation in ancient Cambodia was 
entirely Brahmanical. 

We will first endeavour to pick out those features in the Siamese 
Royal Cremation that can definitely be traced to the Hmayana 
Buddhism introduced in the thirteenth century. Not all Buddhists 
practice cremation ; the Burmese mostly bury their dead. But in 
preferring cremation, which is a method more in accordance with the 
Buddhist idea of the impermanence of matter, the Siamese are also 
adhering to the rules laid down by the Buddha himself. It was in 
response to the repeated request by Ananda for information that the 
Buddha is said to have explained that His remains should be 
treated as was the custom with those of a Cakravartin, or 
Universal Emperor : 

" They wrap the body of the king of kings, Ananda. in a new 
cloth. When that is done they wrap it in carded cotton wool. When 
that is done they wrap it in a new cloth and so on till they have wrapped 
the body in five hundred successive layers of both kinds. They then 
place the body in an oil vessel of iron, and cover that close up with 
another oil vessel of iron. Then they build a funeral pile of all 
kinds of perfumes, and burn the body of the king of kings. And 
then at the four cross roads they erect a ddgaba to the king of kings." * 

Similar rites came to be accepted as the model for the cremation 

1 Eng. ed., 1663, chap, xlviii. 

2 Maha-Parinibbana Sutta, v. 26, SBE., vol. xi, pp. 92 sq. 


of Buddhist kings and distinguished monks in Ceylon. Thus 
King Uttiya 

" caused the dead body of the them to be laid forthwith in a golden 
chest sprinkled with fragrant oil, and the well-closed chest to be laid 
upon a golden, adorned bier ; and when he had caused it then to be 
lifted upon the bier, commanding solemn ceremonies, he caused it 
to be escorted by a great levy of troops : commanding due offerings 
(he caused it to be escorted) on the adorned street to the variously 
adorned capital and brought through the city in procession by the 
royal highway to the Mahavihara. When the monarch had caused 
the bier to be placed here for a week in the Panhambamalaka with 
triumphal arches, pennons and flowers, and with vases filled with 
perfumes the vihara was adorned with a circle of three yojanas around, 
by the king's decree, but the whole island was adorned in like manner 
by the decree of the devas and when the monarch had commanded 
divers offerings throughout the week he built up, turned towards the 
east in the Theranarhbandhamalaka, a funeral pyre of sweet-smelling 
wood, leaving the (place of the later) Great thupa on the right, and when 
he had brought the beautiful bier thither and caused it to be set 
upon the pyre he carried out the rites of the dead. And here did he 
build a cetiya when he had caused the relics to be gathered together. 
Taking the half of the relics the monarch caused thupas to be built 
on the CWya-mountain and in all the viharas. The place where the 
burial of this sage's body had taken place is called, to do him honour, 
Isibhumaiigana." l 

But Przyluski has shown 2 that in fact the cremation of the 
Buddha followed the simple customs usual for monks in those early 
times, and the idea of the Buddha having been cremated with the 
rites due to a Cakravartin is late. Almost all the rites described in 
the Mahd-Parinibbana Sutta and other Buddhist texts refer to the 
Brahmanic ritual in use at the cremation of emperors. For example, 
the weeping of women, the multiplication of the wrappings of the 
corpse, the mention of an elaborate funeral procession (cf. that of 
Kavara, in Ramayana, vi, iii), the use of perfumes and sandal-wood, a 
characteristic of royal cremations in the Epics, and the sprinkling of 
the pyre with milk or latex (cf. the use of cocoa-nut water in Siam), 
are all characteristic of the ritual in use at the cremations of 
Cakravartins. On the other hand, the usual washing of the corpse is 
omitted, because the Buddha was considered to be perfectly pure. 

This tradition was preserved in Ceylon, and the Siamese kings of 
the Sukhodaya period no doubt imitated the ritual favoured by the 
Buddhist kings of Ceylon, but, since the early Siamese kings were 
imbued with the Khmer cult of the Deva-raja, the Hindu-Buddhist 

1 M., xx, 34-46. 

2 J. Przyluski, "Le Parinirvana et les Funerailles du Buddha," Premiere Partic, 
Extrait du Journal Asiatique, 1918-20. 


rites of Ceylon were grafted onto a very evident substratum of Khmer 
Brahmanism. Indeed, in the Siamese Royal Cremation to-day, we 
can distinguish only three important Buddhist features : (1) the 
presence of large numbers of officiating monks, (2) their continuous 
chanting or preaching, (3) the Satagakarana rite. 

As to the Sata-pakarana rite, the following note shows it to be still 
practised in Ceylon, and there can be no doubt that it was introduced 
into Siam from that source : 

" The cloth which covers (the body) is removed and presented to 
the priest, who says : 

Aniccd vata sankhdrd, 
Uppddavayadhammino , 
Uppajjitvd mrujjhanti 
Tessam vupasamo suhho. 

Assuredly all that are born 

Decay and pass away, 

They are born and they cease to exist, 

Their rest is happiness. 

The priest departs, taking with him the cloth." * 

Cremation was not an invention of Buddhism ; it was known 
in Vedic India, although burial was certainly the earlier form. 
Rig-Veda, x, 18, which deals primarily with burial, also contains 
verses which were adapted for cremation and the collection of the 
relics. Up to modern times the remains of Brahmans and Ksatriyas 
in India are cremated with rites which, though differing vastly in the 
main from those observed in Siam, show the following similarities : 
(1) the corpse is wrapped in a ceremonially pure cloth ; (2) gifts are 
made to the officiating priests ; (3) the corpse is washed ; (4) the body is 
apparelled in rich raiment and jewels ; (5) there is a funeral pyre ; 
(6) the near relatives approach and deprive the corpse of all the jewels 
with which it is adorned ; (7) the chief mourner walks round the funeral 
pyre three times ; (8) coins are distributed amongst those present ; 
(9) there are loud lamentations during the proceedings ; (10) the heir 
stirs the ashes with a stick, looking for any bones that may have 
escaped the flames ; (11) gathering up a portion of the ashes he throws 
them into the water, the remainder he collects into a heap, to which 
he gives the rough semblance of a human figure, supposed to represent 
the deceased ; (12) the anniversaries of the deaths of his mother and 
father must be observed with appropriate ceremonies, and liberal 

1 Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. viii, No. 29, 1884, 
p. 233. 


gifts must be made to the priests. 1 Some of these features were no 
doubt borrowed by Buddhism from Hinduism at a very early period 
but others are purely Hindu and have reached Siam via Cambodia 
with a certain amount of influence from Srivijaya. 

A study of such fragmentary records as we possess concerning the 
funeral customs of the ancient Khmers and their neighbours, the 
Cams and the inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago (before conversion 
to Islam), throws a little light on some of the Brahmanical features of 
the Siamese Ceremony. I shall therefore quote such notes as I have 
been able to collect concerning the funeral customs of these countries, 
and then see what deductions can be made from them. 

(1) As regards the Ancient Khmers : 

The Chinese History of the Leang (A.D. 502-556) gives the funeral 
ceremonies of the people of Funan (the pre-Cambodian State), as 
follows : 

" For mourning, the custom is to shave the beard and the hair. 
There are four methods of disposal of the dead : (a) throwing the 
dead body into a flowing stream, (b) burning it to ashes, (c) burying 
it in the ground, (d) exposing it to the birds." 2 

The seventh century Chinese chronicles give the following details : 

" The children of both sexes pass seven days in lamentations, 
without food and without cutting their hair. The relations assemble 
with Buddhist priests and the priests of the Tao (Brahmans), and 
walk in procession with chants to the accompaniment of musical 
instruments. The corpse is burnt on a pyre of aromatic wood and 
the ashes are kept in an urn of silver or gold. Then the urn is thrown 
into the middle of a great river. Poor people use urns of baked clay 
painted in various colours. Sometimes the corpse is exposed on a 
hill-side to be devoured by beasts." 3 

(2) As regards the Cams : 

" For people of high rank, the cremation had to be performed near 
to the mouth of the river, and in the case of the king the ashes were 
thrown into the sea. Ceremonies were performed in honour of the 
dead on the hundredth day and again in the third year." 4 

(3) As regards the inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago : 
Before the coming of Islam the peoples of the Malay Archipelago 

had two methods of disposing of their dead : 

(a) By exposing them to vultures, etc., in very early times. 

(b) Cremation. Just as it was the custom in Cambodia to throw 
part of the corpse on gold plates to the dogs and vultures, so it is 

1 D., chaps, xxix and xxx. 2 C., p. 25. 3 C., pp. 62 sq. 

4 R. C. Majumdar, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East, vol. i, Champa, 1927, 
chap. ix. 


still in Bali, the last stronghold of Hinduism in the Netherlands 
Indies. Before the coming of Islam, cremation was more general, 
especially in Java. The body was washed with a decoction of odorous 
plants, cinnamon, and salt, then wrapped in precious coloured vest- 
ments, and placed on a bed covered by a tent. Underneath were placed 
jars to receive the liquid depositions and the slave who collected 
these was set at liberty. After enough money for a pompous funeral 
had been collected the body was taken in ceremony to a bamboo 
pyramid called ivadah [ Siamese Brah Meru ?] and was placed in 
a coffin and burnt. The ashes were carefully collected and thrown 
into the sea. Poor people, as with the Cams, buried their corpses 
until they could afford to burn them. Islam buries all bodies and the 
only remaining customs of Hinduism are the wrapping of bodies in 
costly cloths and sometimes the use of coffins. 1 

The above facts throw light on six points at least in the Siamese 
Royal Cremation, and I will proceed to deal with them in turn : 

(1) Exposure of the corpse to vultures : It used to be the custom 
in Siam at some time before cremation to cut off part of the flesh of 
the corpse immediately after death, and offer it to the temple dogs 
and vultures on gold or silver dishes. This was only done by the wish 
of the deceased ; it long ago ceased to be the custom of royalty, and 
has now been prohibited by law in the case of commoners. It was 
given a Buddhist significance, and considered an act of great merit. 
In Cambodia it was practised in the case of a royal corpse as late as 
1859, at the death of King Ang Duong. 

Cheou Ta-kouan supposed that the chief method of disposal of the 
dead in Cambodia was to expose them to the dogs and vultures. 
Aymonier 2 states that this was always more common in Siam than in 
Cambodia and may have been in Cheou Ta-kouan' s time a recent 
fashion brought in by the victories of the Siamese. I disagree with 
this, while admitting that the Siamese, in the eagerness of their recent 
conversion to Hmayanism, might have been the first to revive and give 
a Buddhist significance to what I believe was a very ancient and 
widespread custom. The practice was evidently a very ancient one 
amongst the Khmers, since it is mentioned in the History of the Leing, 
and it was also common amongst the Malays, prior to the introduction 
of Islam. It survived in Siam until about thirty years ago in its 
primitive form as a means of disposing of the bodies of criminals and 
paupers, but even in these cases the bones were collected and either 
buried or burnt. I think that this, together with the method of 
throwing corpses into streams (mentioned in the Leang, and surviving 

1 Antoine Cabaton, " Ceremonial in use among the Malays at the death of their 
kings," Revue du Monde Musulman, March, 1908. 

2 A., iii, p. 631. 


until quite recent times in Siam in the case of executed princes) are 
the two most primitive pre-Buddhist, pre-Hindu modes of disposal of 
the dead; they are probably very widespread amongst primitive 
peoples, and present a nice problem for the consideration of the 
exponents of the schools of common and independent origin. 

(2) The Urn : The use of funeral urns is not confined to countries 
with an Indian civilization, but both Hindus and Buddhists have 
adopted them at least for the cremation of royalty. I suggest, 
however, that the magnificence of the Siamese Urn is largely a product 
of the Khmer cult of the Deva-raja with a Burmese grdsdda spire 
added. The placing of jars under the corpse to collect the depositions, 
among the old Malays, is reminiscent of the process of draining the 
body in Siam and Cambodia, and if we had fuller information we 
should probably find many further resemblances in the preparation 
of the corpse for cremation. The Malays, prior to the coming of Islam, 
were much influenced by Srivijaya, if indeed they did not form part 
of that great empire, and if we had further evidence we should probably 
find that it was from that source that the Khmers derived many of 
their Brahmanical cremation rites. 

(3) The survival amongst the modern Malays of burial in rich 
garments also suggests the derivation of the Siamese and Cambodian 
royal funeral ornaments and attire from lrlvijaya. 

(4) The throwing of the ashes into the sea or river is mentioned 
as the custom of the seventh century Khmers, of the Cams, and of 
the old Malays. It is in accordance with Hindu custom as still found 
in India, and is opposed to the Buddhist custom of burying the ashes 
and preserving the relics, and Siam in the Ayudhya period compromised 
by casting the ashes into the river and keeping the bony relics. 

(5) In Campa, ceremonies were performed on the hundredth day, 
and again in the third year. In India, rites are performed on the 
30th, 45th, 60th, 75th, 90th, 120th, 175th, 190th, 210th, 240th, 270th, 
300th, and the 330th day after death, and on the anniversaries of 
death. 1 These rites were the Hindu sraddhas, and I suggest that the 
seventh, 2 fiftieth, and hundredth day rites and the annual homage to 
the relics in Siam and Cambodia are survivals of these. 

(6) The Chinese historian of the Leang noticed that the early 
Khmers shaved their heads in mourning as they still do in Cambodia, 
and as they did until recently in Siam. It is a custom probably much 
older than Buddhism or Hinduism, and is almost world-wide. Its 

1 D., p. 496. 

2 But the seventh day rite has a special Buddhist significance in that, according 
to tradition, the Buddha was cremated on the seventh day after death. 


origin presents as great a problem as does that of exposure of corpses 
to wild beasts. 

To sum up : 

Despite the many gaps in detail, the evidence at our disposal is 
sufficient to show that the present Siamese Royal Cremation has not 
changed greatly since it took shape in the thirteenth to fourteenth 
centuries, when Sinhalese Buddhism was definitely established. The 
Sinhalese type of Royal Cremation was grafted on to the Khmer 
Cult of the Deva-raja, inherited by the first Thai Kings. The Khmer 
Cult had been founded on Indian Brahmanism much elaborated by its 
passage through Srlvijaya. Lastly we are able to recognize elements, 
such as placing a coin or gold piece in the mouth of the departed, 
shaving the head in mourning, and giving part of the flesh of the 
deceased to the beasts, which are survivals of very primitive pre- 
historic funeral customs. 

It will now be possible for me to explain why I have included 
Cremation in the section of this book devoted to Ceremonies of 
Installation. In comparing the Brahmanical rites of the Coronation 
in Siam with those of the Royal Cremation, I have been struck with 
the resemblance between the two, and I suggest that the Cremation 
of the ancient Khmers was, in fact, a Spiritual Coronation. I am not 
going to maintain that all Funeral Ceremonies are to be looked on in 
this way, but it may be so, and religions like Buddhism would naturally 
obscure the idea and cause it to be forgotten. For the present I confine 
my theory to Cambodia and Siam where, especially in the former 
country, Divine Kingship the cult of the Deva-raja reached its highest 
development. Most religions connect death with rebirth in another 
world, and to secure that rebirth in a happy state is the raison d'etre 
of all funeral ceremonies (except those primitive ones designed to 
prevent the dead from worrying the living, which comes to practically 
the same thing). We have seen that according to Hocart l the theory 
of coronation is, or was, that the king (a) dies, (b) is reborn, (c) as a 
god ; and if in Siam (a) and (b) are not definitely expressed, at least 
they are understood when the King takes on the divine attributes 
of the Hindu gods at his coronation. Moreover, when a king considers 
that his earthly power entitles him to rank as an emperor, he has 
himself consecrated again with the rites of Indra, king of the gods 
(Indrdbhiseka). Surely, then, when a king really dies his apotheosis 
is most appropriately celebrated by an abhiseka, and this consecration 
would be accompanied by even greater pomp and circumstance than 
any during his lifetime, not only because it signifies the final step 

1 Loc. cit. 


in supreme elevation, but because, whatever doubt there might 
possibly be in the mind of the king himself or of others as to deification 
during lifetime, the force of inspired tradition, of visions, and of the 
mystery of the unknown life beyond the grave, could leave no doubt 
in the minds of the people as to the possibility, indeed the certainty, 
of deification after death. 

I do not deny the probability of an earlier ritual of cremation having 
existed before the cult of divine kings had reached its climax and the 
Koyal Cremation of Siam and Cambodia may have been built up on 
such an earlier basis ; but I do maintain that the theory explains the 
extreme complexity of the Siamese rites which have puzzled and 
shocked Christians by their apparent inappropriateness, and Buddhists 
as well, judging by the way in which the later Buddhist kings have 
sought to prune them. 

For the sake of convenience I will once more quote Hocart's 
tabular analysis of the component parts of a typical Coronation. 

(a) The theory is that the King (I) dies ; (2) is reborn, (3) as a god. 
(1) Of course actually happens, and (2) and (3) form the Brahmanic 
conception, though Buddhism substitutes Bodhisattva for god. 

(b) By way of preparation he fasts and practises other austerities. 
But, of course, the preparation is entirely spiritual, and those rites 
which have been described on p. 138 (2) are performed by the priests. 

(c) (1) Persons not admissible to the sacrifice, such as strangers, 
sinners, women, and children, are kept away, and are not allowed to 
know anything ; (2) an armed guard prevents prying eyes. The same 
remarks as to the privacy of the more important ceremonies and the 
presence of guards apply to the Cremation as to the Coronation. 

(d) A kind of sabbath is observed ; the people are silent and lie quiet 
as death. There is an extended period of mourning. This has 
disappeared from the Coronation, because the idea of death (previous 
to rebirth as a god) has been lost. 

(e) The King must fight a ritual combat [(1) by arms, or] (2) by 
ceremonies, and (3) come out victorious. The victory is, of course, 
entirely spiritual, even more so than was that of the Coronation. 
Most religions regard death as a victory over the flesh : Brahmanism 
attains it by sacrifice, and Buddhism by the conquest of desire. The 
Drums of Victory are present in the Cremation procession as well as 
at the Coronation. 

(/) [(1) rfte King is admonished to rule justly, and (2) promises to do so.] 
Nothing of this remains now, but there is no reason why there should 
not have been such an admonition, and promise, at one time. We 
have the analogy of the victims about to be buried alive at the city 


gates being admonished to guard them well. No doubt the deified 
kings of Ankor were believed to continue to take a strong personal 
interest in affairs of State, and were supplicated in times of danger. 
And I doubt not that the periodic homage to the relics of kings in 
Bangkok has some such origin. 

(g) [He receives communion in one or two kinds.] It has already 
been remarked, in connection with Coronation, that soma-drinking 
has disappeared from all Buddhist countries. So far as I know, there 
was no soma-drinking at death ; but there is still a form of communion 
among the Hindus in India, where " the purohita pours a few drops of 
pancha-gavia into the mouth of the dying man, by virtue of which his 
body becomes perfectly purified "^ If such a rite ever existed in Siam 
or Cambodia, it has now entirely disappeared. 

(h) The people indulge at one point in [(1) obscenities,] or (2) 
buffoonery. The theatrical entertainments, boxing, tumbling, etc., 
which were such a great feature of royal cremations until recent years, 
and which have appeared so mal A propos in the eyes of foreigners and 
recent Buddhist kings, are perfectly explicable on my theory that the 
Cremation is a Spiritual Coronation of the deified king. 

(i) The King is invested with special garments. We have seen that 
ancient monarchical garments are put on the corpse before it is placed 
in the urn. 

(j) He is baptized with water purificatory baths ; 

(k) and anointed with oil not oil, but perfumes and cocoa-nut 
water in Siam. Purificatory bath and abhiseka are confused in 
Cremation as in Coronation. 

(I) [When a human victim is killed.] No relic of this could exist 
side by side with Buddhism in Siam, but Indian Hindu kings were 
accompanied in death by their wives and slaves. 

(m) And the people rejoice with noise and acclamation. The 
ceremonial music on conches, flageolets, and drums of victory, and 
the firing of guns, now regarded as signs of respect and ritual 

(n) A feast is given in the Cremation, just as in the Coronation, 
roasted grains are scattered (but by the young princes) and not only 
monks, but all those who pay homage at the pyre are fed, and largesse 
is distributed, but now it takes the form of money contained in limes, 
while in the Coronation there was the scattering of gold and silver 

(o) The King is crowned when in the urn. 

(p) Puts on shoes ; 

1 D., p. 482. 


(q) And receives other regalia such as a sword, a sceptre, a ring, etc.- 
the sword and sceptre have been displaced by Buddhism in favour of 
a candle and an offering of betel ; but a gold chain is placed round 
the neck, a nine-tiered umbrella is hung over the Urn, and, when 
in procession, a page carries a fan. 

(r) And sits upon a throne. Catafalque or Brah Meru, the throne 
of Indra ; the " invitation " to the corpse to be seated thereon is 

(s) [He takes three ceremonial steps in imitation of the rising sun.] 

(t) At the conclusion of the ceremonies he goes the round of his 
dominions and receives the homage of the vassals. The circumambulation 
around the Pyre symbolizes the god's journey round Mount Meru, 
especially if the deified king was a sun-god. 

(u) He receives a new name. The first three kings of the Bangkok 
dynasty had posthumous titles identifying them as Bodhisattvas, 
and we have seen that Khmer kings often received posthumous titles 
signifying that they had gone to the heavens of their favourite deities. 

(v) [The Queen is consecrated with the King.] An explanation of 
sail in India ? 

(w) [So are the vassals or officials either at the coronation ceremony 
or in the course of the King's tour.] 

(x) [Those who take part in the rites are dressed up as gods, sometimes 
with masks.] But it is to be noted that the dead king wears a gold 
mask which represents the shining visage of a god. 

(y) [Which may be those of animals, thus identifying the wearer 
with some kind of beast] But the presence of the mythical beasts in 
the procession is to be noted. 

(z) A King may be consecrated several times, going up each time one 
step in the scale of kingship. And, according to my hypothesis, Crema- 
tion is the final step. 

2. The Functional Value of the Royal Cremation. 

I have already indicated the functional value of certain parts of 
the Eoyal Cremation, but will conclude with a general summary. 
Cremation and Coronation are undoubtedly two of the most important, 
sociologically, of all the Koyal Ceremonies of Siam. Perhaps they are 
not quite the most important since they occur comparatively rarely 
in the lifetime of most members of the public, whereas there are 
other annual ceremonies which from their more frequent occurrence 
perhaps do more to impress the people with the majesty of the kingship. 
Nevertheless, a Coronation or a King's Cremation once seen can scarcely 
be forgotten even by the most unimpressionable. 


It is particularly important that a Koyal Cremation should be 
celebrated with the greatest possible pomp, because death is the 
greatest danger that the idea of divine kingship has to combat. 
It strikes right at the roots of the whole conception, and instils doubt 
into the minds of a people who, until recently, had not dared even to 
contemplate the possibility of a king suffering from any mortal 
infliction ; and now, with the spread of western education, modern 
scepticism, and the shadow of communism, the Royal Cremation plays 
an even bigger part than formerly in impressing on the people that 
the king is not dead, but has migrated to a higher plane, where he will 
work out his destiny as a Bodhisattva for the good of all beings. The 
mixture of Brahmanism and Buddhism is fortunate : the former 
lends itself more to the exaltation of the kingship, while the latter 
emphasises the royal protection of the people's religion and enables 
them to enter into the spirit of the ceremonies. 

The Eoyal Cremation has another important sociological aspect : 
it shows, more strongly than does the Coronation, the new king's 
respect for his ancestors, for the dynasty, and for old traditions. 
It is also an example to the people in filial piety. Throughout history 
a new king, even a usurper, did well to honour the former occupant 
of the throne. A classical example of this is recorded in the Mahd- 
vamsa 1 : The great Sinhalese king Dutthagamini accorded full 
funeral honours to his fallen Tamil adversary Elara, who, though a 
foreigner, had ruled Ceylon wisely and well for many years. On the 
other hand, the cold-blooded execution and deprivation of funeral 
honours of King Tak by Rama I, though considered necessary in 
those stern times, undoubtedly struck a blow at the people's respect 
for the kingship, which has only been repaired by the passage of years 
and the wisdom of later rulers. 

As with the Coronation, it is the more public and stately parts of 
the Royal Cremation which have most sociological value in maintaining 
the respect of the masses for the kingship. They have no understanding 
of the significance of most of the rites, such as we have discussed in 
detail, but they have an innate love and respect for all forms of royal 
pageantry, and it is the magnificence of the state procession, the 
splendour of the Urn enthroned upon the catafalque, or the brilliantly 
illuminated Brah Meru, that impress them that their King is a great 
King ; and the opportunity that is given them of paying homage by 
laying candles upon the pyre and thus storing up great merit, convince 
them that he is also a gracious one. But they miss the mythical 
monsters and the free theatrical entertainments, for they are a 

i M., xxv. 71-4. 



light-hearted people, and these things mean much to them ; and it is 
only to be hoped that what the Royal Cremation gains in dignity 
by these omissions may to some extent make up for the apparent 
diminution of the royal bounty. 


The following is a list of the mythical monsters, denizens of the 
Himaphan, whose effigies used to take part in Eoyal Cremation and 
Tonsure Ceremonies. Images of a few of these creatures are to be 
seen in the courtyard of the Chapel Eoyal. They are also depicted 
on the walls of Vat Brah Jetavana and other temples, while miniatures 
representing them are to be found in certain old manuscripts : 

Siamese Name. 

Description. 1 

Traditional Colour. 


Garuda bird 


Garudha pek dhan 

Gam da carrying flag 



fish-tailed monkey 


Krafrpil paksa 




kind of bird 

dark blue 

Nak dandima 

kind of bird 

light yellow 

Mayura gandharba 


light yellow 

Mayura vcrtai 

garu da- peacock 

light indigo 



light green 




Deb kinnara 

man- bird 


Absara siha 



Deb narasinha 

man- lion 

white and gold 

Banara mamga 



Sinha banara 




demon- deer 

white and yellow 

Asura paksa 

demon -bird 

green, red wings and tail 

Nak karavik 

kind of bird 

light vermilion 

Su'a pik 

winged tiger 


Deb paksi 


white, red wings and tail 

(Name lost) 

kind of man-lion 

yellow and green 


woman- bird 

white or cream 

Kraisara rajasiha 

kind of lion 





Sindhaba naddhi 

water horse 

white, red tail and fins 

Sindhaba kunjra 


green with black tail 

Kraisara paksa 




kind of lion 

light yellow 

Honiara astara 


piebald, white tail 

Astara vihak 


yellow, vermilion, black 


kind of lion 

light yellow 

Singa bo'n 

kind of lion 


Bayaga kraislha 



1 Where a description consists of two hyphened words, the first word usually 
refers to the appearance of the fore-part of the creature, while the second refers to 
the hind-part. This list is adapted from that recently published in Bangkok, 
together with a drawing of each species, by Nay Kro'n Silpabejra. 



Siamese Name. 


Sihha kinlen 

kind of lion 

Siriha ramarikara 




Ma drari kru'an 
Jalfi phu'ak 

caparisoned liorso 
white elephant 

Van kunjara 

water elephant 

Karinda paksa 

elephant- bird 

Sin to cm 

Chinese lion 


kind of lion 





Kraisara naddhi 

water lion 

Kilen plk 

winged lion 

TDuranga kraisiha 


AStara hera 

horned lion-horse 

Bayaga kraisiha 


Sakuna kraisara 

bird -lion 

Sakuna hera 




Hansa cm 

Chinese swan 

Kai tankia 

Tonquin cock 

Naga pakf?ina 


Nak de.4a 

kind of bird 

Nak hafiatin 


Nak indri 


Krai?ara gavl 


Duranga pak?ina 


Nay sai 

caparisoned lion 

Maiikra sakuni 


Kai scchvan 

Szechuan cock 


water bird 

Kumbhl nimitra 


Kai hakkian 

Hokkien cock 



Traditional Colour. 
dark blue and purple 

green, red fins and tail 
" natural colour " 
light red (nat. col.) 
purple, green fins and tail 
black, green wings and tail 

yellow, green wings and tail 
reddish purple 


dark yellow 
light yellow 
light yellow 
dark yellow 
light yellow 

white, yellow wings and tail 
green wings, yellow tail 
black and white 
" natural colour of horse " 

grey, yellow wings and tail 
dark blue 
white, purple tail 



There was probably a time when a primitive form of ancestor 
worship was common to all the peoples of Indo- China and, together 
with animism, formed their only religion, as it does to-day for most 
Chinese. Later, this came to be overlaid by forms derived from India, 
and so we have to-day in Siam, so far as the common people are con- 
cerned, an inextricable mixture of Indian and Mongolian forms of 
ancestor worship. In the first place, it is customary for every one who 
can afford it to give a feast at New Year at which the spirits of the 
dead are supposed to attend. Lighted candles and flowers are placed 
before the urns and Buddhist monks come to take part in the feast 
and recite appropriate stanzas and receive sata^akarana gifts. This 
reception of the ancestral spirits at New Year is, despite its Buddhist 
setting, identical with similar festivals of Chinese origin, which take 
place in Annam, Cochin-China, Tonquin, and Japan. 1 On the other 
hand, Gerini 2 has shown the resemblance between the three sets of 
oblations offered at the commencement of every domestic ceremony 
and the Baliyajna, Devayajna, and Pitriyajna, or offerings to all 
creatures, to the gods, and to the Pitris (spirits of the dead) which form 
so conspicuous a feature of the Hindu Sraddhas. 

Coming now to the immediate subject of this chapter, the worship 
of dead kings, we find that this is an extremely widespread custom, 
as Frazer has shown in the various volumes of the Golden Bough ; in 
fact, it is the logical sequel to the belief in the divinity of kings, and 
as such will bring to a natural conclusion our studies of Ceremonies of 
Installation. So far as Siam is concerned, the proximate origin of 
the worship of dead kings is to be found in the cult of the Deva-raja 
in Cambodia, which was also known in Java and South India. We 
have discussed in Chapter IV with almost sufficient detail the nature 
of this Deva-raja Cult, and have seen that it combined deification with 
ancestor worship, the Royal God being either worshipped as a iva~ 
linga or as a statue of Visnu or Siva, having the features of the deceased 
king. Special shrines were devoted to this cult, and of these the most 
famous is Ankor Vat. According to an ancient legend current among 
the modern Cambodians, Ankor Vat was the supernaturally built 

1 OB. vi, pp. 62 sqq. a Ge. (1), pp. 40, 41. 



palace of a king who was miraculously reborn a second time on earth 
after a short stay in Indra's paradise. Cheou Ta-kouan, as would appear 
natural to a Chinese, supposed that it was the tomb of a dead monarch ; 
and now Coedes 1 has shown that it was indeed the palace of a king, but 
of a dead one, under the name of Paramavisnuloka, who was supposed 
to inhabit the central tower of the temple. This deified monarch to 
whom this Visnu temple was dedicated was either Udayaditya- 
varman II (1048-79) or Suryavarman II (1112-1165), 

The rulers of the first independent Thai kingdom at Sukhodaya 
retained, as we have seen, as much as they could of Khmer Hinduism 
the better to support their new-found majesty, at the same time 
revering and protecting the recently introduced Hmayanistic Buddhism. 
The latter, at least in its popular form, was not incompatible with the 
worship of the dead king who, as a Bodhisattva, might be in a position 
to aid those still on earth ; but this worship could no longer rank in 
degree or fervour with that which had been accorded to the Khmer 
Deva-raja by Hinduism or even Mahayanism. Nevertheless right 
down to the present day two methods of showing honour to the 
deceased kings of the dynasty remain, one of which is apparently 
Hindu, the other Buddhist. 

In the former, the reigning king goes to pay his respects before the 
golden life-size statues of the deceased kings of the dynasty which 
are enshrined in niches in that fine cruciform building, surmounted by a 
tall Cambodian grahg, situated within the precincts of the Grand Palace, 
and known as the Ho Brah Debpitara, or Pantheon (PL XXVIII). 
The King, on entering the shrine, lights candles and makes the usual 
obeisance with joined palms before the statues, and then retires ; 
after which the nobles, officials, and members of the general public 
of both sexes crawl into the building on hands and knees, prostrate 
themselves before the statues, and pay homage with joined palms, 
and then they crawl out through another door. Surely this is very 
much what used to happen in the shrines dedicated to the Eoyal 
God in ancient Cambodia. The only difference between the statues 
of the Bangkok kings and the deified kings of the Khmers is that 
instead of being represented with the attributes of gods, they are 
true portrait statues ; but this is an innovation of the Bangkok period, 
indeed the first three kings never allowed themselves to be portrayed, 
and their statues are based on the composite ideas of four old people 
who had seen all three kings and were ordered by King Rama IV to 
instruct an artist. 

The Buddhist method of paying respect to the dead kings takes the 
1 Coedes, Lea Baa Reliefs d' Angkor, p. 59. 




ITofttre JUKI? 170, 


Flute: Itomihtk Time* J'r<m*, Uil. 



form of placing the urned relics under a nine-tiered umbrella-of-state 
on an altar in the Amarindra (PL XXIX) Hall or in the new Ananta 
Samagama Hall, where the King and Queen light candles and incense - 
sticks, and pay the usual homage before the relics. 1 A chapter of monks 
recites stanzas, an abbot preaches a sermon, and the King lays down 
robes for the SatayaJcarana rite. Candles are also lit before the altar 
on which are the images of Buddha cast for the reigns which are being 
honoured. These images are cast merely as an act of merit, and as 
symbolizing the royal devotion to Buddhism. They do not represent 
the kings as incipient Buddhas, and are therefore not to be confounded 
with the statues in the Pantheon and the Brahmanic conception. 
Similarly, small images are cast for every year of each king's age, 
and are kept in the Cakri Palace during his lifetime, and afterwards 
placed in the Chapel Eoyal. 

At New Year, Coronation Anniversary, and on Cakri Day, the 
latter kept on 6th April as a memorial to the accession of the Cakri 
dynasty, the relics of all the deceased kings of the dynasty and their 
first queens are thus honoured, and reverence is also paid to the 
statues in the Pantheon as above described. On the anniversary of 
the death of King Kama V and on that of King Kama VI, the relics 
of these two kings only are honoured, each on the appropriate day, the 
relics of the Queen Mother, i.e. the first queen of King Kama V, being 
also honoured with those of that king. But on these occasions there 
is no celebration in the Pantheon. 

Although, on all the above occasions, the Chapel Koyal is open 
for members of the general public to worship before the Emerald 
Buddha (after the King has left the building) and on Cakri 
Day the public are also admitted into the Pantheon, yet the honouring 
of the actual relics is a semi-private affair, only the Koyal Family, 
the nobles, and official world taking part in the homage. This was 
appropriate in the days when the people were kept at a distance from 
royalty, and when the only function that such ceremonies had was 
to increase the nobles' and officials' fear of, and respect for, the dynasty. 
But King Kama V created in the hearts of his subjects an entirely new 
outlook with regard to the ruler, a deep personal affection for the 
sovereign who had done so much to relieve the hardships of his people, 
as apart from the ingrained traditional respect for the kingship. Hence, 
after his death, there arose a spontaneous desire for an annual 
opportunity for the people to pay public homage to his memory. This 

1 The classical Buddhist precedent of honouring relics is the occasion on which 
the Mallas paid homage for seven days before the relics of the Buddha (Maha- 
Parinibbana Sutta, vi, 60). It was, of course, founded on earlier Brahmanic usage. 


was provided by the institution of a public holiday on the anniversary 
of his death, known as Culalankarana Day (23rd October). On this 
day the great equestrian statue of King Rama V, situated in the middle 
of the royal plaza, is surrounded with a rdjavdt fence adorned with 
tiered umbrellas, and the base of the statue is massed with wreaths 
and artistic floral decorations, the tribute of schools, government 
departments, and commercial bodies. The King and Queen arrive 
by motor-car and, after inspecting the floral tributes, light candles 
and incense -sticks and offer flowers on the altar placed opposite the 
western entrance to the enclosure. Then they kneel and pay homage, 
while aeroplanes circle overhead. The National Anthem is played, 
and the King and Queen drive away. Throughout the day thousands 
of people take advantage of the opportunity to pay homage before the 
statue and, although music and refreshments are provided on both 
sides of the plaza, the occasion is celebrated with befitting dignity. 
The fifth anniversary (1930) of the death of King Rama VI was 
celebrated on an unusually grand scale, the ceremonies extending over 
three days, 25th, 26th, and 27th November. It has been the custom 
in recent years to commemorate the death of any notable person by 
the publication of a Siamese historical, literary, or religious work, 
selected from amongst the manuscripts preserved in the National 
Library. This is a very excellent custom which has done much to 
spread the knowledge and appreciation of the national literature. 
The enormous task of printing a new edition of the whole Tripitdka 
was undertaken by public subscription in order to commemorate the 
death of the late King, and this has recently been completed 1,500 
sets, each of forty-five volumes. The completion of this great national 
work was celebrated together with the usual rites for the honouring 
of the relics of the late King. The special features were that on 
26th November, part of the Scriptures were carried in procession 
from the Theological School at Vat Pavaranivesa to the Chapel 
Royal and there placed on the altar, together with the image of the 
Buddha (named Brah Buddhapatima Jayavadhana) for the sixth 
reign. The King lit candles before this image, before the Emerald 
Buddha, and before the Tripitaka. A sermon was preached, and a 
chapter of monks performed the consecration service. Afterwards 
the King proceeded to the Royal Pavilion erected on the lawn behind 
the Chapel Royal, where he witnessed lantern dances and other 
appropriate entertainments. Then he lit fireworks as a mark of 
worship, and took his departure. On the Royal Cremation Ground 
were a few theatres and other forms of entertainment for the public, 
but they were not on a very grand scale owing to the prevailing desire 


for economy. I noticed that the Bamayana masked drama still 
holds first place among Siamese entertainments in the hearts of the 
populace. The Chapel Koyal was also open for the public to pay 
their respects before the Buddha for the sixth reign, and the Emerald 
Buddha. Here again I mingled with the crowds that passed through 
the sacred fane and noticed their awed humility and deep respect 
when within the holy precincts. Next day the King visited the 
Chapel Royal once more, and presented food and other gifts to the 
monks who had officiated the day before. A vian dian rite performed 
by the Brahmans for the benefit of the sacred books indeed a remark- 
able instance of the fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism in Siam 
concluded the rites, after which the Tripitaka was taken back to the 
Theological School. 

In the year 1932 will occur the 150th anniversary of the founding 
of the City of Bangkok, and very special celebrations are to take place 
as they did at the Bangkok Centenary, which will include the honouring 
of the relics of Kama I the founder, of whom a bronze image, to be 
placed at the head of the new Menam bridge, is shortly to be cast 
in Italy. 

One more method of paying homage to deceased kings in Siam 
remains to be mentioned : the setting of a photograph or lithograph 
of the particular king on a table, before which are made the usual 
offerings of lighted candles, flowers, and incense. This is now a very 
popular custom, both in government institutions and private houses, 
since every Siamese home possesses at least a cheap lithograph and 
can thus show its loyalty in this easy and practical manner. But it is 
of course quite a new custom, since the making of royal portraits 
only came into fashion after the middle of last century, after the 
belief that this was harmful to the person represented had been 
officially discountenanced. Indeed, the supposition that some part 
of the royal " soul " (if one may be permitted to use this loose term) 
might possibly inhabit the portrait, 1 would be an added stimulus to 
paying homage before it. It is also a modern means of expressing 
what remains of the worship of the living King, for whenever it is 
desired to honour him, especially on the occasion of a royal procession, 
portraits of the King set up on tables may be seen at almost every 
Siamese doorway along the route. 

In determining the exact degree of " worship " that remains in 
the honouring of the relics, statues, and pictures of the deceased king 
at the present time, one must beware of generalization. One cannot, 
for example, compare the homage to the statues in the Pantheon with 

1 OB. Hi, pp. 06 sqq. 


the homage of the people before the equestrian statue of King Kama V. 
In the former, respect for the abstract conception of the kingship is 
uppermost, and as such is a relic of the Khmer cult of the Koyal God ; 
whereas in the latter we have something entirely new, respect for the 
memory of a great sovereign and a good man, a loyal and spontaneous 
show of affection, which might, perhaps not inappropriately, be 
compared to the attitude of those gathered before the Cenotaph in 
Whitehall to honour the memory of those who fell in the Great War. 
I have been present both at the Pantheon on Cakri Day and at the 
equestrian statue on Culalankarana Day, and have endeavoured to 
analyse the attitude of the people. As I have said, one cannot 
generalize, and it seems that the attitude of mind on these occasions 
depends largely on the individual. The more ignorant portions of 
the masses seem to retain a good deal of that blind respect for the 
kingship as such, which probably characterized the Khmers in the 
days of the Deva-raja cult and popular Buddhism, with its desire 
to make merit and its prayers for material benefits offered before the 
altar of the Buddha, differs little from such popular worship amongst 
the Hindus. But it seems probable that, with the spread of education, 
the greater knowledge of the purer tenets of Buddhism and the substitu- 
tion, gradual but inevitable, of respect for the Man in the place of 
respect for Divine Kingship, the attitude of mind in which respect is 
offered to the memory of dead kings, will tend to approximate more 
and more to that of other advanced nations, of whatever creed. In 
this coming change the present dynasty, who have long made them- 
selves the true fathers of their people, have nothing to fear, and one 
cannot imagine the time when such days of remembrance will cease 
to have a sociological value. 





1. State Audiences and the Reception of Embassies. 

With the establishment of modern diplomatic relations with foreign 
powers and the appointment of resident foreign representatives, State 
Audiences, such as were accorded to foreign embassies in the days 
when they were few and far between, have almost become a thing of 
the past. Intercourse with European powers and with America 
pursues its even course through the ordinary diplomatic channels, 
and when the King receives a diplomat or distinguished visitor he 
receives him in Private Audience in the Ananta Samagama Throne Hall 
on the same quietly dignified lines as mark such occasions in Europe. 

The State Audience takes place now only on great occasions 
such as following the Coronation, and on the Coronation Anniversary, 
and is simply the occasion for offering a congratulatory address to 
the King, who replies shortly in suitable terms. On the occasion of 
the Coronation of King Prajadhipok, I was fortunate in being present 
at the State Audience, and under unusual conditions. The setting 
was well fitted to inspire those present with a sense of the majesty 
of the occasion : Troops in brilliant uniforms lined the courtyards 
leading to the Amarindra Hall, where the audience took place. Officials 
in still more gorgeous uniforms, over which were draped gowns of 
silver or golden tissue, thronged the courtyards. Every department 
was represented, but perhaps the most numerous uniforms were the 
striking sky-blue and silver of the Mahhatlek and the black and gold 
of the officers of the Royal Household. The sun shone brilliantly, and 
the green, vermilion, and the yellow tiles of the temple roofs and the 
blazing gold of the great pagoda vied with the splendour of the 
uniforms in their combined effort to dazzle the human eye. The 
officials and nobles, the Diplomatic Corps, and a considerable number of 
European officials crowded into the Hall, which is of noble proportions, 
but with its decoration of light and dark green and silver appeared 
sombre in comparison with the splendour of the uniforms. The 
officials stood in groups and every now and then glanced towards 

1 The chief sources are the writings of the seventeenth century European 
ambassadors and missionaries, especially La Loubere and Gervaise. Siamese Embassies 
to Europe, by H.R.H. Prince Damrong, has also been found useful. 

177 N 


the heavy golden curtains which cut off a raised dais at one end of 
the Hall. It was there that at a given signal the King would appear. 

I was anxious to see the proceedings from behind the curtain where 
were grouped around the golden throne chamberlains and pages of 
the Mahhatlek, those officers whose duty it was to be in closest 
attendance upon the King, and I took up my position among them 
near the wall on the right of the throne. The King, wearing full state 
robes and the Great Crown of Victory, entered the curtained-off part 
of the Amarindra Hall by means of a door leading from the Bais*ala 
Hall, and immediately ascended the throne, the chamberlains bowing 
their respects. As soon as the King had arranged his robes and 
signified his readiness, a fanfare resounded and three taps of two ivory 
blocks were the signal for the curtains to be suddenly drawn to reveal 
to the waiting officials the King on his throne of audience. The lighting 
was very cleverly arranged to present the King as the centre of a 
symmetrical picture? of glittering gold. This golden audience throne 
called Brali-di-nah Budtdn Ddn (Golden Hibiscus Throne) differs from 
the Bhadrapitha in being more highly ornamented and set on a tall 
tiered pyramid, carved with figures of devatds and garudas. It was 
flanked by tables bearing the regalia and by gold and silver trees, 
while above was reared the nine-tiered white umbrella. The King 
sat perfectly still, and seemed like an image in a niche. He listened 
intently to the address of homage and congratulation offered by Prince 
Barnaransi, who stood in front of the princes and nobles gathered 
in order of precedence below the dais. He moved only once, and that 
was to take from a chamberlain a scroll from which he read his reply. 
This completed, Prince Barnaransi intimated his acceptance of the 
royal commands, the officials bowed, the fanfare sounded, and the 
curtains immediately closed to blot from the eyes of those in the body 
of the hall this imposing picture. Once the curtains had fallen the 
King relaxed, and while he was relieved of his crown he smilingly 
joked with those around him. This part of the procedure was to me 
the most interesting, as it showed the quite pleasing and unassuming 
manner of a modern Siamese king when surrounded by none but his 
personal officers. 

This magnificent State Audience was hailed at the time by some 
of the newspapers as a fine example of " veneration of the past ". 
If the journalists concerned had taken the trouble to discover what 
was the form of audiences in the past they might have observed that, 
except for the attire of the King, this occasion bore little resemblance 
to the State Audiences of old. To me it seemed that the modern 
lighting effects, the uniforms of the Mahhatlek, and those of the nobles 


and officials, suggested rather a Court function of some Balkan capital. 
I noticed the presence of no antique uniforms such as give the 
impression of Old Siam to most of the State Ceremonies, but only that 
efflorescence of semi-European styles which was evolved in the last 
reign, but which has happily undergone considerable curtailment during 
the present one. This is especially fortunate in the case of the Kram 
Mahhatlek, which department has been abolished, and the uniform of 
which, by no means unpleasing in itself, did much to mar the 
appearance of many a Court ceremony on account of its close 
proximity to the royal person. The structure and appearance of the 
type of throne used, the lack of all prostration, indeed the pro- 
ceedings in general, made it difficult to connect the present spectacle 
with its prototype in Old Siam. 

The State or Public Audience, being a non-religious ceremony, so 
far as anything connected with a divine monarch can be considered 
as non-religious, has changed more readily from time to time in 
accordance with the etiquette in use in those countries from which 
embassies were most frequently received. Thus, if the etiquette was 
originally entirely Hindu, which is suggested by its resemblance to 
that of Pegu and Ceylon, it was affected by Chinese influence at times 
when intercourse was more frequent with that country; while from 
the seventeenth century onwards Siam has been doing her best to 
withstand the repeated attempts of European countries to force 
their methods of diplomacy upon her. In the last century the missions 
of Crawfurd (1822) and Bowring (1856) are, especially the former, 
replete with the difficulties which they encountered as a result of 
mutual misunderstandings. Although Bowring succeeded in concluding 
a treaty, and establishing modern diplomatic relations, with the right 
of foreign representatives to follow their own customs when attending 
Court, it was not until the reign of King Rama V that prostration 
was abolished for the Siamese themselves, and State Audiences 
assumed nearly their present form. 

In the eighteenth century Siam was practically closed to Europeans, 
except the Dutch, there being otherwise only the abortive mission of 
Philip V of Spain in 1718. This seclusion was due to the sharp lesson 
which the Siamese had learnt at the end of the seventeenth century 
when a timely revolution only just saved Siam from becoming a French 
colony. The intercourse which nearly gave France possession of the 
country was marked by two embassies : (1) that of de Chaumont in 
1685 of which we have full accounts in the writings of the ambassador 
himself, and those of the missionaries Tachard and Gervaise ; (2) that 
of La Loubere in 1687-8. He, unlike any other early European 


ambassador, was able to forget his own difficulties sufficiently to give 
us a very valuable objective account of the Siamese etiquette. The 
French were also more sympathetic and willing to conform to the 
outward forms than were the ambassadors of other nations, and 
perhaps they had also greater knowledge, derived from their 
missionaries who had preceded them. Thus it is that although we 
have two early Dutch accounts of the forms of audiences, 1 and there 
was a Siamese embassy to Prince Maurice of Orange as early as 1607, 
it is from the French accounts that I take most of the following details 
as to the customs relative to State Audiences and the Reception of 
Embassies as they were at a time before they were corrupted by 
European influence. 

The most striking point with regard to the Siamese idea of an 
embassy, and the one which most astonished the early European 
ambassadors, was that it was the custom in Siam and other Far Eastern 
countries to regard the foreign king's letter as the essential factor, to 
pay all respects to it, and to regard the ambassadors as mere messengers. 
But if this hurt the pride of the European ambassadors, it was as 
nothing to the insult which the Siamese monarchs felt, and rightly 
felt in my opinion, was inflicted upon them when they found that, 
in the case of the first British and the Spanish missions, the letter was 
not sent by the King, but by a governor-general. At first the Siamese 
were ready to believe that this functionary might be the King's brother, 
an Ugaraja or Second King, but on learning that he was a mere official 
of State that had dared to address his Siamese Majesty, a person who 
would have been compelled to grovel in the dust before his king had 
he been a Siamese, their indignation was unbounded ; for quite 
naturally they were unable to understand delegated authority. It 
was a similarly limited outlook that involved the British in so much 
trouble in Burma, where the King also felt himself degraded by the 
epistles he received directly from the Goompanee Min, or King 
Company, a term coined, somewhat ironically, I presume, to express 
that importunate body of merchants, the East India Company. There 
can be no doubt whatever that the French owed their success at the 
end of the seventeenth century largely to the fact that their letters 
were couched in glowing terms and emanated directly from their 
King. Later, the British appreciated the position and Sir John 
Bowring was charged with a letter directly from the Queen. Following 
our study of the conception of the kingship, the two ideas that the 
Royal Letter was alone worthy of respect and that only a king could 
address a king, will be readily understood. 

1 F. Caron and J. Schouten, 1662; and J. Struys, Eng. ed., 1684. 


When a ship conveying a foreign embassy arrived at the mouth 
of the river, it was obligatory to unship all guns, and the ship pro- 
ceeded independently to the capital. A procession c f state barges was 
sent down to receive the letter and the ambassadors (Fig. 2). The Royal 
Letter was placed in a gold receptacle, and placed on the head of the 
Siamese bearer, as a sign of respect ; then it was carried under a royal 
umbrella to a Throne Barge, and installed under the spire. The 
ambassadors followed in less splendid barges, and on arrival were 
accommodated with what degree of comfort the country could afford. 
The first audience was with the Brah Glah, a sort of Minister of 
Commerce or Minister of Foreign Affairs, the two posts being regarded 
as the same in those days, since all foreigners appeared to be connected 
with trade. It was at these audiences that the ceremonial to be 
observed at the Royal Audience was decided, and several visits to the 
BraJi Gldfi were often necessary before an agreement could be reached, 
on account of the obstinacy displayed on both sides. The Brah Gldn 
refused to return the ambassador's visits because such was against 
etiquette until after the Royal Audience ; nor were the ambassadors 
allowed to go about freely in the city, but were placed under a strict 
watch until after the Royal Audience. Then they were allowed 
complete freedom, and were supposed to be safe from all rudeness 
on the part of the populace, being considered to be under the King's 
protection ; and they were also then allowed to engage in trading if 
they wished. Presents of food were frequently sent to them, and a 
sum of money was granted for their maintenance, it being the custom 
for the King to bear all the expenses of the mission while resident in 
the country. This was contrary to European custom, and an added 
insult in the eyes of the ambassadors was the fact that the amount of 
the payment, which would no doubt have been ample for the upkeep 
of Asiatic messengers, was to the Europeans a mere pittance. The 
British ambassadors refused to accept it, and this mutual misunder- 
standing was another obstacle in the way of the success of their 

According to Gervaise there was a marked difference in the mode 
of reception of the Letter, according to whether it was sent by a 
sovereign who was regarded as an equal or merely as a vassal. In the 
latter case the Letter was kept by the Brah Gldn, and a translation 
into Siamese was made ; it was placed until the day of audience in a 
small house having a pyramidal shape, outside the city wall, and was 
presented to the King on the day of audience by a Siamese official. 
In the case of a king of equal rank the procedure was different : the 
ambassadors accompanied the Letter in full state to the palace, and 


were allowed to present it to the King themselves. This was the 
procedure followed in the case of de Chaumont and La Loubere, but 
Crawfurd was evidently treated as a vassal, for his letter was not 
even produced at the audience, and only the translation of it was 
read ; nor were the interpreters belonging to the mission allowed to 
function. This mistake on the part of the Siamese of regarding the 
British in the light of vassals is understandable, since Crawfurd's 
letter came only from a governor-general, and hence the mission could 
not be considered to rank with that of a sovereign. The King would 
not consent to discuss a treaty with him, and he was told to confer with 
the Brak Gldn, who was regarded as the proper person to whom such a 
letter should have been addressed. 

When at last the preliminaries had been settled, and the audience 
day had arrived, the ambassadors went in procession through the 
decorated streets, and were saluted by the guards, who were drawn up. 
The White Elephant and royal chargers were also on show for the 
occasion within the courtyards of the palace. When they reached 
the inner gate, the ambassadors were required to remove their shoes, 
also their swords or other weapons, no one being allowed to enter 
the King's presence armed. King Rama IV was the first to waive this 
rule, when he allowed Sir John Bowring's officers to retain their 
swords. As a rule the members of the ambassadors' suite were not 
allowed to accompany them into the Audience Hall. 

At the State Audiences at Ayudhya the form of throne was peculiar 
and different from that used at Bangkok. It was, in fact, not in the 
Hall of Audience at all but in an adjoining room belonging to a higher 
storey, and from a window of which, situated about 10 feet above the 
ground, the King had a prospect of the Audience Hall (Fig. 3). The 
King's throne or seat could not actually be seen, and at the termination 
of the audience it was drawn away by unseen hands, and the shutters 
were closed. La Loubere remarks that this form of window throne 
was also in use in China, and I think it was probably derived there- 
from, since embassies were exchanged between China and Cambodia 
from the third century A.D., and in the thirteenth century Rama 
Gamheii himself visited the Imperial Court. There were similar 
arrangements at LabapurT, which was a favourite residence of King 
Narayana. The ruins still remain in tolerably good preservation. 
I have visited them personally, and found the Audience Hall very 
similar to that which existed at Ayudhya, as figured by La Loubere. 
The modern arrangement of curtains and a comparatively low gilded 
throne is therefore an innovation of the Bangkok period. It was in 
use at the first Bangkok audience of which we have a record, i.e. in 

\ Hep) oil {tcetl from La Loulere 


\ To face page 182 










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the reign of King Rama II. On either side of the audience window 
was placed an umbrella of seven stages, and above it was reared one 
of nine tiers. The Siamese officers of State were arranged in the 
Audience Hall strictly in accordance with their order of precedence, 
the nearest about twenty paces from the window, and of course they 
were all prostrate throughout the proceedings. The ambassadors, 
and in the seventeenth century those French missionaries who were 
also allowed to be present to act as interpreters, were given whatever 
place the King thought suited to their rank, and they were allowed to 
sit or stand according to that relaxation of rule which the King had 
been prevailed upon to allow, but with special orders to keep their 
feet and the lower parts of their bodies hidden. When the King 
appeared, all paid homage by raising the joined palms three times 
and lowering the head until the forehead touched the ground, but 
the latter part was not insisted upon for Europeans. The same salute 
terminated the proceedings. The following interesting extract from 
La Loubere describes the arrangement of the Audience Hall during the 
State Audience at which his embassy was received 1 : 

" (a) Three Steps which are placed under the Window, where the 
King of Siam was, to raise me high enough to deliver him the King's 
Letter from hand to hand. 

" (6) Three Parasols or Umbrellas. 

" (c) Two pair of Stairs to go up into the place where the King 
of Siam was. 

" (d) Two Tables covered with Tapestry, on which were laid the 
King's Present, which could be held there. 

" (e) The Son of Mr. Ceberet standing, holding the King's Letter 
in a Gold Bason of Filigreen with a triple Story. 

" (/) Two little square and low Stools, each covered with a little 
Carpet, for the King's Envoys to sit on. Monsieur de Chaumont 
had such another. 

" fg) The Bishop of Metellopolis, Apostolick Vicar, sitting cross- 

" (h) Monsieur Constance prostrate at my right hand, and behind 
me to serve as my interpreter. 

" (?) Father Tachart sitting cross-legged. 

" (k) Fifty Mandarins prostrate. 

* (/) The French Gentlemen sitting with their Legs across. 

" (m) A little pair of Brick Stairs to go up to the Hall of Audience. 

" (u) The Wall whereunto this pair of Stairs is fixed." 

It will be noticed that one European, Monsieur Constance (h), 
was prostrate, like the Siamese officers. He was not a Frenchman, 
but the famous Greek adventurer, Constantine Phaulkon, who had 

1 gee Fig. 4. 


entered the Siamese Service some years before, and succeeded in 
rising to the position of the King's most trusted minister. 

The gold vessel (Fig. 4) for the King's Letter, was of three stories. 
This was in accordance with the custom by which a triple-storied 
vessel was considered proper for the reception of the Letter of a king 
of equal rank to the Siamese king, one of only two stories being allotted 
to an inferior monarch. 

The three steps below the window (a) were a modification introduced 
specially for La Loubere's embassy. It was the custom for the 
ambassador to hand up the letter to the King by means of a gold 
receptacle having a very long handle. De Chaumont, the previous 
ambassador, had for some reason difficult to understand thought this 
procedure derogatory to his dignity. He therefore held the vessel 
itself, not the end of its handle, and this obliged the King to stoop 
down, which he smilingly did, thereby showing a grace which seems 
to contrast favourably with the gauche manner of the ambassador. 
To guard against a repetition of this undignified scene the three steps 
had been erected. 

The proceedings at a State Audience were short and formal. A 
prostrate secretary read a list of the foreign king's presents, the 
portable part of which were arranged on the tables before the window. 
The foreign king's letter was then presented in the manner above 
described, after which the prostrate Brah Glah, his face nearly 
touching the ground, read the translation. Then, 

" The King [through interpreters] made three customary and 
formal questions. First : Were the king and royal family of the foreign 
country in good health ? Second : Did the envoy have a good journey, 
and how long did it take ? and Third : Was the rainfall satisfactory 
in the rainy season of his country, and were the people prosperous ? " 1 

The King expected only short replies. He disliked anything in the 
nature of a harangue, and since the ambassadors were regarded only 
as royal messengers, not as plenipotentiaries, there was really no 
reason for a long discussion. An official gave the ambassadors a small 
present of betel from the King. This offering of betel to the 
ambassadors at various times, especially on arrival, long ago took the 
place of the old Hindu custom of offering scented water, golden bowls, 
and white cloth for ablution. 2 Other small presents such as umbrellas 
and Siamese cloth were sent to the ambassadors' residence, for they were 
expected to dress in Siamese fashion during their stay. Immediately 
after the presentation of betel, the audience terminated with the 

1 Siamese Embassies to Europe, p. 16. 

2 Gerini, Impl. and Asiatic Quarterly Review, x. 


usual three obeisances, the King then withdrawing to the accompani- 
ment of a fanfare of trumpets. 

Cheou Ta-kouan, who describes a royal audience in Cambodia at 
the close of the thirteenth century, mentions that the King sat at a 
golden window; but I think this must then have been a recent 
innovation, for the History of tie Leang (502-56) remarks that 

"when the king sits down he squats sideways, lifting the right 
knee, letting fall the left knee to the ground," l 

and in the Ankor bas-reliefs the king is invariably shown seated in 
this position on a low throne of Indian style. 

During the stay of the ambassadors they were shown the various 
sights of the city, especially the White Elephant, and the King usually 
granted them one or more private audiences. These differed from 
the State Audience mainly by reason of the fact that in them the 
King was not seated in the window, but in the audience chamber 

"in a wooden Tower joined to the Floor of the Hall, into which he 
entered behind, and immediately, by a Step higher than the Hall." 2 

Struys seems to describe a similar throne, although of gold, when 
he says : 

" His supreme Throne is of massive Gold, made after the form 
of a pyramid, and so contrived that none can see him ascend." 3 

Possibly these thrones represent earlier forms of the tall Brali-dl-naii 
Budtdn Don of the present day. 

The ambassadors were also expected to pay their respects to the 
Second King, who received them in the same way as had the Supreme 
King, even asking the same formal questions. They had also to visit 
the high officials of the country, and on all occasions had to present 
gifts. A final State Audience of leave-taking took place after the 
conclusion of all business, and after this the ambassadors were 
prohibited from moving about the city, and were expected to leave 

It was not the custom for the King to send a letter in return by 
the hands of the foreign ambassadors. He always sent an embassy 
of his own, if possible in his own royal ships. Such an embassy was 
sent to Louis XIV, and again to Queen Victoria, but in these cases it 
was impossible strictly to adhere to the custom of using a Siamese 
ship. A Siamese embassy consisted of three officers called respectively 

1 Pelliot, BEFEQ. iii, 1903, p. 269. 

2 L. L., p. 109. 

3 The Voyages of John Struys, Eng. cd., 1684. 


rajadut, ugadut, and tridut, the first being the ambassador proper, 
but the fact that his title was never higher than brah indicates that 
he was not considered a very important personage. 

Several other considerations throw further light on the Siamese 
conception of an embassy. The slowness and delays in completing 
all the preliminary arrangements, as well as the loftiness of the 
throne or audience window, the distant and reserved bearing of the 
King, and his condescension in making presents to the ambassadors, 
were all processes contrived to impress upon them the dignity and 
power of the King. Again, it was a maxim of Siamese kings to receive 
many embassies, but to send as few as possible. There was honour in 
receiving an embassy, but, on the other hand, there was always present 
the idea that the one who sent the first embassy was offering homage. 
The very great store that was set upon the reception of the presents, 
the King even sending secretaries on board the foreign ships to make 
an inventory before the gifts were actually presented, indicates the 
desire to regard them as tribute, if possible. This point of view was 
not unnatural since the main object of British and Dutch embassies 
to Siam and Burma was to ask for trade concessions, whereas the 
Siamese and Burmese desired only to be left alone. Another 
characteristic of the Siamese monarchs was their dislike of concluding 
a treaty. While prepared to make promises, they did not like to 
commit themselves to writing, an instinct of self-preservation, for they 
were not ignorant of the growth of British power in India, and they 
feared that they might sign away their sovereign rights. 

It is hardly necessary to repeat that the difficulties experienced 
by European ambassadors were entirely due to a mutual misunder- 
standing. The Siamese system was well fitted to function in the way 
it was intended, i.e. for intercourse with the neighbouring vassal 
states, and with great China. There is a very interesting Sinhalese 
account of an embassy from King Kirti Sri of Ceylon to the King 
of Siam in 1750. 1 Buddhism at that time had fallen to very low estate 
in Ceylon, and King Kirti Sri sent to ask that a delegation of Siamese 
monks might be sent to improve matters. This was certainly a great 
honour for the King of Siam, and the Sinhalese king was regarded 
as being his equal. The result was that the ambassadors on returning 
from their mission, which was successful, expressed their great 
satisfaction at the kind treatment which they had received according 
to etiquette, which was exactly on the lines which have been described 

1 Translated in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon Branch, vol. xviii, 
No. 54, 1903. 


2. Audiences to Officials and Petitioners. 

In the Laws of Maim, which have already been quoted in 
Chapter IV, it will be remembered that one of the chief duties of 
kings was to give audiences to ministers and officials and to hear 
those who might wish to present petitions ; and we have also mentioned 
that in the Coronation Audience the King promised to hear every 
official so far as opportunity might allow. Some of the audiences 
of Old Siam were in the nature of secret councils, which might be 
compared to the meetings of the modern Supreme Council of State, 
and Gervaise describes King Narayana's audiences to his councillors 
as follows : 

" After breakfast he goes into his Grand Council at eight o'clock 
and stays there until noon. There in the Council is Monsieur de 
Constance [Phaulkon the Greek adventurer], his first Minister, who 
tenders him an exact and faithful account of the chief affairs of the 
kingdom which need to be discussed. When he has finished, the King 
goes over all that he has said in the presence of the mandarins, his 
First Councillors of State, and asks their advice on these matters. 
They all prostrate themselves on the ground, leaning only on their 
elbows, unless they are excused keeping themselves in that posture 
while in the presence of His Majesty. Each Mandarin prefaces his 
remarks with a little compliment which he renders to the King 
approximately in these terms : ' Sire, since Your Royal and Divine 
word has seen fit to descend upon me who am but filth and dust, 
I place it respectfully on my head, and find in me the boldness to 
tell Your Majesty what I think of the matter that You have deigned 
to discuss with me who am but Your slave.' After they have all 
had their say, His Majesty then speaks giving his decision, unless 
he allows them to reply again. If, during the discussion of the matter 
in question, the King has noticed that some secret reason or private 
interest has prevented one of his councillors from saying sincerely 
and in good faith what he really thinks, then he suspends judgment 
until he knows that Minister's true feelings on the matter ; and, 
in order that the persons shall not feel injured by knowing that the 
Minister is being enquired about by His Majesty, the King sends 
secretly, and unknown to the other councillors, to question that 
minister on what he desires to know." 

At eight o'clock in the evening the King again met his 
councillors : 

" As he is accustomed to keep until the evening his decision on the 
matters of greatest consequence which have been conveyed to him 
in the morning, it is rare that anyone brings up new matter unless 
it is very urgent, so that the councillors have time to think over the 
morning's affairs during the day. This mooting of the councillors, 
however, does not end before midnight." l 

1 Gervaise, part iv, chap. 4, translation from the French (1684) by H. S. O'Neill, 
Bangkok, 1928, pp. 116, 117. 


A seventh century Chinese account of a meeting of royal councillors 
in ancient Cambodia supplies us with the prototype of the above : 

" There were five classes of high officials ; when they appear before 
the king they thrice touch the ground in front of the steps of the 
throne. The king orders them to mount up the steps, and then they 
kneel with their hands crossed over their shoulders. Then they sit 
in a circle round the king for discussing state affairs. When the 
meeting of the council is over, they kneel down again and take leave. 
At the gate of the throne-room there are a thousand guards in armour 
armed with lances." x 

As to the presentation of petitions, Cheou Ta-kouan wrote of the 
procedure in thirteenth century Cambodia as follows : 

" Each day the king holds audience twice for the affairs of state. 
The list is not restricted. Those of the officials or of the people who 
wish to see him sit on the ground and wait. After a while, one hears 
distant music in the palace, and, outside, conches are blown as a 
welcome to the king. An instant later one sees two palace girls draw 
back the curtain, and the king, sword in hand, appears at the golden 
window. Ministers and people joined their hands and lowered their 
foreheads to the ground. When the noise had ceased they could 
raise their heads. Following the pleasure of the king, they approached 
to sit down. In the place where the petitioner might sit, there was 
a lion's skin which was regarded as a royal emblem ; when the business 
was finished, the prince retired, the two palace girls let the curtain 
fall, and everyone rose from the ground." 2 

Gervaise gives rather a long account of this type of audience, which 
shows that after a lapse of four centuries the procedure was practically 
the same, though marked by a greater degree of servility on the part 
of the petitioner. As he gives interesting details which further 
illustrate the relations between the king and his subjects at that 
time, it will be worth while to quote his account in extenso : 

" When he grants them an audience in his palace, it is always 
from the embrasure of one of his windows. Before the shutters are 
opened there are trumpets sounded to warn everybody that His 
Majesty is about to appear, and everybody bows his head towards 
the ground, and he who craves for an audience makes from a distance 
three deep bows to His Majesty. Then he steps forward three paces, 
to the spot that has been marked out for him. This position is always 
some distance from the window, more or less according to the 
superiority of the rank of the petitioner. When he arrives at this place 
he must make another three similar bows and remain there prostrated 
upon a mat or carpet, his hands clasped together and his head turned in 
such a way that he cannot look into the King's face. An interpreter 
by his side informs the great mandarin who is present, of the nature 
of the matter which the petitioner wishes to bring up, and the Minister 
or mandarin repeats this to the King, makes the three usual bows 

1 C., p. 61. * Pelliot, BEFEO.y loc. cit. 


and prepares his Majesty to listen, by the prefatory compliment which 
he pays in these terms : ' Sire, Your slave craves permission to speak. 
He implores Your Majesty to suffer his unclean and defiled voice 
to reach the doors of your divine ears.' The King motions to him to 
speak, and after His Majesty has given the reply he thinks proper, 
the petitioner thanks him by making three more bows which end 
the audience. At this point a mandarin comes forward with a large 
silver dish filled with rich materials or some rarities of the country, 
of which a present is made on behalf of His Majesty to the one to 
whom it has pleased him to grant an audience. As soon as he has 
received them, the recipient puts them on his head to indicate the 
high esteem in which he holds such a gift, and he prostrates himself 
three times as he did on entering. The King then retires and the 
window is closed. If he has already received from His Majesty a coat 
or any other precious article, it is his duty to bring it with him to 
this audience, for it is by the display he makes of such gifts that he 
shows his gratitude and renders himself worthy of the continuation 
of these liberalities. It is most important that everyone shall be 
well prepared in what he shall say to His Majesty when he presents 
himself for an audience, and that he shall remember it carefully, 
for what is said there is written down in a record book which the 
King takes the trouble to look over from time to time, and often when 
one thinks least about it, he is pleased to question the same person 
on the same matters on which he has formerly spoken, so that His 
Majesty shall know if he is sincere and whether he may place 
confidence in him." l 

Gervaise then goes on to remark that audiences were sometimes 
granted to petitioners at some place agreed upon outside the palace, for 
political reasons. But the ceremonial was only a slight modification 
of that in force at public audiences. 

If any relic remains at the present day of these audiences to officials 
and petitioners, it is to be found, I think, in the Court Levees held on 
certain occasions, such as the King's birthday. I attended one of 
these in the magnificent new Ananta Samagama Throne Hall, built 
at enormous expense in Italian style. The ceremonial was entirely 
European. The officials ranged themselves along the walls of the 
marble hall of vast proportions, illuminated by innumerable 
chandeliers, and decorated with splendid mural paintings representing 
scenes in Siamese history, the work of Italian artists. The arrival 
of the King, accompanied by the Queen, was heralded by the playing 
of the National Anthem by a military band. Their Majesties, preceded 
by a chamberlain carrying a wand of office, and accompanied by 
ministers of State, slowly walked round the hall, here and there pausing 
to exchange a few words with an official and inquiring as to the progress 

1 Gervaise, translation from the French (1684) by H. S. O'Neill, Bangkok, 1928, 
pp. 125-6. 


of his work and his general well-being. Undoubtedly no one would 
have thought of presenting a petition at such a time ; such a thing 
would be unheard of. But nevertheless it seems to me that the Court 
Levee, encased in western forms as it is, is the modern representative 
of the ancient petitioners' audience, giving as it does the opportunity 
for the King to exchange a few words with officials whom he probably 
never sees on any other occasions during the year. 

There was still one other form of audience, perhaps the most 
interesting of all, which I have reserved for the last. In the famous 
stele of King Rama Gamheii of Sukhodaya we read : 

" In the entrance to the gate (of the palace) a bell is hung up ; 
if a subject of the realm has any trouble or any matter that distresses 
him within or torments his heart, and which he wishes to declare to 
his prince, there is no difficulty ; he has only to ring the bell that is 
suspended there. Whenever King Kama Giimhen hears this appeal 
he questions (the plaintiff) concerning his case (and decides it) 
according to the right." x 

This audience bell persisted until much later times in Siam, even if 
the call was not always answered and petitioners dared not to ring it ; 
and it is mentioned in the classical Siamese work entitled Sip-sdn 
Liam. It was known in Burma, 2 and in Cambodia it lingered until 
the nineteenth century, under Norodom. 3 In fact, it was common 
to all the countries of the Orient it is even mentioned in the Thousand 
and One Nights. But evidence that so far as Siam and Cambodia are 
concerned it was probably derived from India is to be found in the 
statement in the Mahdvamsa, that : 

"At the head of his bed he had a bell hung up with a long rope 
so that those who desired a judgment at law might ring it." 4 

Whether it was derived from India or independently evolved by the 
early Thai nomads, it is undoubtedly an extremely ancient institu- 
tion. It seems to take us back to remote patriarchal days when the 
king was indeed the father of his people and they were so few and their 
complaints so rare that he could deal with them all in person. 

These various opportunities for officials and oppressed subjects 
to obtain access to the ear of their monarch must have been of consider- 
able sociological importance in Old Siam. When high officers of 
State and judges were corrupt, and justice as at present understood 
was hardly known in Siam, it would obviously have a very salutary 

1 Coedes, Les Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, p. 45. 

a An audience bell is mentioned m a Burmese and Talaing inscription (A.D. 1621) 
on such a bell, Burma Research Society, vol. xviii (1928), pt. i, pp. 21-34. 
8 Gr., p. 338. 
4 M. xxi, 15. 


effect on the overbearing nature of the great nobles for them to know 
that any petty official might, if goaded too far, be led to try his luck 
with a petition before the King, who, however great a tyrant he 
himself might be, was the less likely to allow tyranny amongst his 
nobles ; and, with the utter lack of proportion that characterized the 
government of Old Siam, the noble lord might himself be exposed with 
a cangue round his neck or be sent to cut grass for the royal elephants, 
only to be reinstated a few days later to his high position, but with, 
at least for a time, a very chastened outlook. 

With the building up of a modern system of justice, with judges 
and ministers who have been educated up to a higher sense of public 
duty, still more perhaps through the publicity afforded by the open 
law-court and the newspaper, the necessity to maintain the right 
of petitioning the King has almost disappeared, though it is still 
resorted to in extreme cases. 

The custom of prostration has frequently been mentioned above, 
since it was formerly a most important and inevitable characteristic 
of all intercourse between the subjects and the monarch of Siam. It 
was officially abolished by King Rama V on the occasion of his Corona- 
tion, but it still lingers voluntarily, and especially in connection with 
the honouring of the relics and statues of past kings of the dynasty. 
The idea of never looking up at the King but always keeping the face 
parallel to the ground seems to be connected with that taboo mentioned 
in Chapter IV whereby the people were supposed not to be able to 
bear the radiance of the divine face. It has been suggested that the 
custom might be connected with a desire to avert the " evil eye ", but 
I cannot find any evidence to show that the idea of the " evil eye " 
ever existed in Siam. Apart from the aversion of the face, the bodily 
prostration and the lifting of the joined palms is simply the servile 
method of offering homage to a deity or a king which seems natural 
to the Asiatic. 

The following evidence indicates that the custom was not always 
in force : The seventh century Chinese chronicles, which have been 
quoted above, speak of the councillors as sitting, not grovelling ; and 
Cheou Ta-kouan in the thirteenth century mentions the same 
phenomenon. Again, in the bas-reliefs at Ankor Vat, royal audiences 
are depicted in which the officials are seated in an attitude considered 
respectful in the East, but not prostrated in the modern way. The 
same fashion was evidently customary at Pagan, Burma, as is shown 
by the reliefs in the Ananda Temple. 1 Relief No. 49 depicts King 

1 Reproduced in Epigraphia Birmanica, vol. ii, part 2. 


Janaka on his canopied dais at audience with his ministers who sit 
with joined hands and feet concealed, while No. 33 shows a messenger 
kneeling before the Bodhisattva Temiya. Coming lastly to Sukhodaya 
although there is no certain evidence on the subject, it is doubtful if 
such a great-hearted monarch as Rama Gaihhen, the spirit of whose 
anxiety for the welfare of his subjects runs right through his famous 
inscription, could have brought himself to enforce prostration. 

I conclude, therefore, that prostration was a comparatively late 
innovation in Indo -China, introduced by despotic monarchs not earlier 
than the fourteenth century. When the last traces of a patriarchal 
form of government had passed away, and fear was the chief support 
of despotic rulers, prostration had great sociological value. King 
Rama V, who had endeared himself to the hearts of his people while 
yet a prince, was perhaps the first monarch since the rulers of Sukho- 
daya who was strong enough to break through the old tradition. 



One of the most important State Ceremonies from the point of 
view of the upkeep of the established form of government in Siam 
is undoubtedly the Drinking of the Water of Allegiance (bidhi srisdc- 
cpdnkdn, or thtfnam) which is still celebrated on the same impressive 
scale as it has been since the days of the Cambodian Empire. 

The detailed regulations for the manner of taking the Oath by the 
various classes of officials arc described at length by King Kama V, 1 
who rightly laid great stress on the proper carrying out of the ceremony. 
The rites take place with great splendour twice yearly, on the third 
day of the waxing of the fifth month (Chaitra), and on the thirteenth 
day of the waning of the tenth month (Bhadrapada). The Drinking 
of the Water takes place in the Chapel Royal in Bangkok, and also 
in one temple in each seat of provincial government. The water is 
previously hallowed in the usual way by the monks, who recite 
mantras, the sacred sincana thread being stretched round the water- 
vessels, while the Court Brahmans also dip into the water the State 
Sword and other royal weapons, this being a rite of contagious magic, 
by the power of which any official meditating treason would be 
destroyed. It is said that persons have not infrequently in the past 
died of cholera after drinking the hallowed water, a result which no 
doubt did much to strengthen the general belief in the efficacy of the 
magic. On the day of the ceremony a Brahman reads out the Oath, 
and each official must drink the contents of a small cup, which he 
must drain to the last drop. Any appearance of difficulty in swallowing 
was, in the old days, considered as equivalent to an admission of 
disloyalty. The ladies of the palace, as well as members of the royal 
family, drink the Water of Allegiance, but, of course, with suitable 
privacy. Officials confined to their houses through illness are not 
excused from drinking the Water, but it is taken to their bedsides by 
royal pages or other officials. The following is a translation of the 
Oath of Allegiance made during the fourth reign, which I quote as 
I have not been able to obtain access to the original ; but I understand 
that it is substantially accurate apart from a few obviously antiquated 
-expressions which I leave unaltered : 

1 BRB., pp. 222 sqq. 

193 o 


" We, the slaves of the Lord Buddh, beg to offer to His Majesty 
Prabaht Sorndetch Pra Chula Chaum Klow [i.e. King Riima IV] 
the King, this our personal oath, pledging our loyalty, in the immediate 
presence of the god Buddh, the sacred teachings and the sacred priests. 
We entreat the deity which protects the sectioned white Umbrella, 
and the guardian deities of all other places throughout the kingdom, 
to observe with their godlike eyes, and hear with their godlike ears, 
the pledges we make to Prabaht Somdetch Pra Chula Chaum Klow, 
the King, who has been crowned and placed upon the throne, and who, 
observing the ancient royal usages, treats graciously the priests, the 
ministers, and royal descendants, the official servants of His Majesty, 
military and civil, within and without, the provincial governors and 
their subalterns, the rulers of territories, states, and the entire 
population living within His Majesty's dominions. Hence it is proper 
that we gratefully perform our official duties, under His Majesty's 
feet faithfully, free from rebellious acts, physical, verbal, mental. 
If we, the slaves of our Lord Buddh, are not firmly fixed in true national 
gratitude, or if we meditate to His Majesty, Prabaht Somdetch, Pra 
Chula Chaum Klow, the King, with body, words or in disposition, 
or if we disclose our minds to the people or rulers of other regions 
that are hostile, and plot that others do evil to Prabaht Somdetch 
Pra Chula Chaum Klow, the King. If we see with our eyes, hear with 
our ears, or know that others are about to do evil to' His Majesty, 
but delay with evil intent, with ingratitude, and lack of honesty ^ 
and with evil purposes toward Prabaht Somdetch Pra Chula Chaum 
Klow, the King, who is full of great mercy and incomparable graciousness : 
We pray the deities of lands and forests ; the guardian deities : the 
atmospheric deities ; the goddesses who care for" the earth, especially 
the powerful deities who are located where is the great white Umbiella, 
emblem of royalty, may plague us with evil, destroy our lives, effect 
our destruction and death by breakage, by severance ; cause our death 
by lightning and thunderbolts, by royal weapons, the powerful royal 
sword, by poison and the power of land and water animals ; let there 
be some opportunity for the destruction of the perfidious ones; let 
swift destruction come; let us not escape all great disasters and 
consequences of all localities, which those who have the power can 
inflict for all offences. We beseech the power of the deities to plague 
with poisonous boils, rapidly fatal, and all manner of diseases the 
dishonourable, perverse, and treacherous, plague with untimely, 
wretched and appalling deaths, manifest to the eyes of the world ; 
when we shall have departed this life from earth, cause us to be sent 
and all to be bom in the great hell, where we shall burn with quench- 
less fire for tens and hundreds of thousands of ages and limitless 
transmigrations; and when we have expiated our penalty there, 
and are again born in any world, we pray we may fail to find the 
least happiness in worlds of pleasurable* enjoyments ; let us not 
meet the god Buddh, the sacred teachings, the sacred priests, who 
come to be gracious to animals, helping them escape misery, reach 
heaven and attain a cessation of births and deaths ; should we meet 
them let them grant us no gracious assistance. If \ve remain firmly 
established in gratitude and honesty, and do not meditate the rebellion 
and evil that has been rehearsed, we beg the land, the forest and 


the atmospheric deities, and the four great guardians of the world, 
whose power extends to all the worlds of the gods, to the sacred 
foundations, forces and rulers of powerful nations, and the deities 
stationed in the great white Parasols of royalty, and the guardian 
deities that protect His Majesty by night and by day, and the deities 
that protect the palace, and the deities stationed to protect the twelve 
royal treasures, and all the deities, the armories, and ministers and 
great royal property ; we entreat you all to assist, and protect us who 
perform all official duties faithfully ; grant us prosperity and happiness 
in this and in other worlds ; cause us to escape all the diseases and 
calamities that have been enumerated. We have received from 
His Majesty this water, pledging ourselves, therefore cause us to 
possess clear, unalloyed happiness, and to escape from all diseases 
and maladies ; and grant us eminent prosperity, and brilliant, happy, 
fruitful lives, prolonged into very great age ; and let us die in happiness 
resembling sleep, with an awakening in the abode of the gods, in the 
enjoyment of godlike possessions in heaven, for hundreds of thousands 
of ages and limitless species of beings. When we die and depart from 
heavenly and god-like worlds to be born again in human worlds, let us 
abound with goods, glorious and limitless possessions, and distinguished 
attendants in accord with our desires. We entreat the Lord Buddh, 
the sacred teachings, and the sacred priests, to grant the fulfillment 
of our desires in the way of heaven, and escape from the successions 
of life and death, and their attendant miseries, together with our 
fidelity and gratitude." l 

It is known that the Ceremony of Drinking the Water of Allegiance 
in the Ayudhya period was the same as that followed in Bangkok from 
the first reign onwards, King Kama I having restored the ancient 
usage on his accession 2 ; and it is mentioned by La Loubere in the 
seventeenth century. 3 There is no definite evidence for the practise 
of the ceremony at Sukhodaya, 4 but it was certainly in force in ancient 
Cambodia. On the pillars of a portico near the Phimeanakas at Ankor 
Thorn are engraved eight inscriptions containing the names of 
numerous officials who swore allegiance to Suryavarman I, each 
inscription being preceded by the Oath of Allegiance in Khmer, which 
has been translated as follows : 

" In 933 c.E. (A.P. 1011) the 9th of the waxing moon of Bhadra 
(August-September), Sunday. Here is the oath which we, belonging 
to the body of tamrvac (lictors) of the first, second, third, and fourth 
categories, swear all of us without exception, cutting our hands, and 
offering our lives and grateful and stainless devotion to H.M. Sri 
Suryavarmanadeva, who has been in complete enjoyment of 

1 Siam, M. L. Cort, pp. 123 sqq. 

2 BRB., p. 231. 

3 L. L., p. 81. 

4 The passage in Rama Gamhen's inscription, supposed by Bradley (JSS., vol. vi, 
pt. 2), to refer to this ceremony, has been shown by Coedes (Lee Inscriptions de 
Sukhodaya, p. 47), to refer to an ordinary audience. 


sovereignty since 92 C.E., in the presence of the sacred fire, the holy 
jewel, the Brahmans, and the acaryas. We shall not honour any 
other king, we shall never be hostile (to our king), we shall not be 
the accomplices of any enemy, and we shall not seek to injure him 
(our king) in any way. We pledge ourselves to perform all actions 
which are the fruit of our grateful devotion towards His Majesty. 
If there be war, we pledge ourselves to fight faithfully in his cause without 
valuing our lives. We shall not fly from the battlefield. If we die 
a sudden death, not in war, or even if we commit suicide, may we 
obtain the reward due to the persons devoted to their lord. As our 
lives are dedicated to the service of His Majesty up to the day of our 
death, we shall faithfully do our duty to the king, whatever may be 
the time and circumstances of our death. If there be any affair, for 
which His Majesty orders us to go abroad, to learn everything about 
it, we shall seek to know it in detail. If all of us, who arc here in person, 
do not keep to this oath of allegiance to His Majesty, may he reign 
long yet, we ask that he may inflict punishments of all sorts on us. 
If we hide ourselves, to escape carrying out the oath, may we be 
reborn in the thirty- two hells as long as there is the sun and moon. 
If we carry out loyally our promise, may His Majesty give orders for 
the upkeep of the pious foundations of our country, and for the 
maintenance of our families, as we are devoted followers of our lord 
H.M. Sri Suryavarmanadeva who has been in complete possession 
of the sacred royalty since 924 C.E., and may we obtain the reward 
due to faithful servants in this world and in the next." l 

M. Coedes has remarked upon the similarity of this oath to the 
one still taken by officials at the Court at Phnompenh, there being, 
after a lapse of nearly a thousand years, little difference between the 
two other than the substitution of Buddhist terms for Brahmanical. 

Though we have thus adequate material for tracing the history 
of the Siamese Oath back to Khmer times, we have no direct evidence 
as to the nature of the actual ceremony in ancient Cambodia. Never- 
theless, there is reason to suppose that the ceremony was very much 
the same then as it is to-day, both in Bangkok and Phnompenh, because 
it seems very probable that it was derived from one of the forms of 
water ordeal practised in ancient India : 

" To whatsoever deity the accused happens to be devoted let 
(the judge) bathe the weapon of that deity in water, and give him 
to drink three handfuls of it. He to whom no calamity happens, 
within a week or a fortnight, (either to himself or) to his son, wife or 
property, is innocent beyond doubt." a 

1 Coedes, "Etudes Cambodgienncs," BEFEO., t. xiii. 

8 Brihaspati, x, 23-4, in SBE., vol. xxxiii, p. 318. In the Siamese version of 
the Ramayana it is recorded that Pipek, brother of Ravana, on going over to Rama, 
was made to drink water, in which Rama's weapons had been dipped, and to pray 
that it might destroy him should he break his oath. (Bastian, Reisen in Siam, 
pp. 518 sq.)- But this may be a late interpolation. 


In analysing the functional value of the Ceremony of Drinking 
the Water of Allegiance, several features of the Siamese Oath are of 
special importance. These are : 

(1) The substitution of Bhuddhist for Brahmanical terms (as 
compared with the early Khmer Oath). 

(2) The introduction of a large number of animistic phrases, 
reference to guardian spirits, etc. (as compared with the early Khmer 

(3) The greater detail in which the torments of the disloyal in 
future existences are described (as compared with the early Khmer 

(4) The Oath is not entirely negative in either Siamese or early 
Khmer forms. It finishes up in a brighter vein, with reference to 
the rewards with which loyal officials may hope to be recompensed. 

All these features have great bearing on the efficacy of the Oath, 
an efficacy which it retains at the present day. The very essence of 
the sociological value of such an oath and its accompanying water 
ordeal is that it is founded on fear, the emotion which is best developed 
in the subjects of barbaric kings. Now it would be going too far to 
say that the spirit of loyalty, as we understand it, never existed in 
Indo-China. It probably did. But that was before divine kingship 
reached such extreme elevation that it knew no limits to its power, 
and came to regard the people as mere chattels. Certain it is that 
any such spirit of loyalty, founded on the higher human emotions, 
passed away from Siam many centuries ago, and in the steady efforts 
of the educational and other government departments to reintroduce 
it, efforts which date from the memorable occasion on which King 
Rama V first told his courtiers that they might stand in his presence, 
the people see an entirely new idea introduced from the West. In 
the ancient Khmer Oath we seem to have the oath of men who 
understood the meaning of the word patriotism, and whose loyalty 
was founded on higher motives than fear. It is still a long way removed 
from the Western idea of a man's word of honour being an all-sufficient 
oath, but the more restrained terms in which the damnation of the 
disloyal is described, and the absence of invocations of demons and 
spirits, the king himself being looked to for the punishment of traitors 
in this world, implies a people with some degree of self-respect. I do 
not mean to suggest that in the later centuries of the Khmer Empire 
the people were any less oppressed than were the Siamese of the 
Ayudhya period ; but their Oath seems to indicate that they retained 
some of the forms, if not the memories, of early patriarchal days. 
With the growth of tyranny in Siam in the Ayudhya period, and the 
substitution of the milder religion of Buddha for Brahmanism, came 


the necessity to increase the efficacy of the Oath ; and that was done 
by the elaboration of the details of the punishment and the introduction 
of the animistic phrases. Whoever was responsible for this introduc- 
tion, if it was any one person, must have been a keen student of 
human nature. Kings were often too sunken in debauchery to wield 
in person the powers which their more vigorous forefathers had gained 
for them, Brahmanism was almost dead, Buddhism was perhaps as 
yet imperfectly understood by the masses, and though its hells make 
every conceivable provision for the discomfort of the damned, there 
were doubtless then as now, in Siam as in every other country, people 
who were ready enough to sell their souls to problematical devils in 
the next world, in return for the enjoyment of certain power and riches 
in this one. But there were still the phi : the elusive and dangerous 
spirits of the White Umbrella, of the Royal Weapons, and the guardian 
spirits of the city, who were jealous for the welfare of the king, not 
to mention the lesser sprites of house, garden, tree, and stream. They 
brought retribution swiftly, as any man could aver who had seen his 
neighbour smitten down with cholera in a single night. The belief 
in the power of phi is still very strong amongst nearly all classes of 
Siamese ; how much more so must it have been amongst the ignorant 
and superstitious officials of Old Siam. It was this invocation of the 
spirits, then, that made the Oath of Allegiance such an effective 
support to Absolute Monarchy. Complementary to the fear aroused 
by this invocation, though far less important, was the last feature 
on our list. A slender hope is held out that the spirits would reward 
dutiful subjects for their loyalty. They seldom did, but a hope, 
however slender, of material rewards in this world, was probably a 
greater incentive to loyalty than anything that Buddhism could 
offer in the next. 

The text of such an Oath as this docs not reflect much credit upon 
the type of society that requires to use it, the more so as there is here 
no question of merely keeping up an old custom out of respect for 
ancient tradition. Drinking the Water of Allegiance is in Siam to-day 
definitely a powerful instrument for the support of the established 
form of government, and so long as a considerable percentage of 
superstitious, and half -educated, officials remain in the service, some 
of whom are not entirely disposed to turn a deaf ear to the alluring 
slogans of communism, so long will Siam be well advised to refrain 
from attempting to substitute a simpler and nobler form of Oath. 




It has already been remarked that from the earliest historical 
times in India it has always been one of the foremost duties of kings 
to protect the established religion, and to confer lavish gifts upon the 
priesthood. In the days when the Brahmans were supreme it was, 
of course, to them that such gifts had to be made, and one of the most 
magnificent occasions on which this royal bounty was displayed was 
at the ceremony of Tuldbliara. At this ceremony, which was well 
known in India and is still practised in Travancore, the king, and 
sometimes the queen, were weighed in a balance (tula) against gold or 
silver, which was given to the Brahmans. 

Tuldbhara, despite the fact that the Brahmans had long ceased 
to be of much account in Siam, was performed at Ayudhya in the 
ninth lunar month (Sravana), but fell into disuse in the middle of the 
eighteenth century. It was performed in the royal anointment 
pavilion (brah-di-ndn mangaldbhiseka), in the middle of which was 
placed a balance surrounded by curtains. The King went thither in 
a grand procession, riding on a palanquin, and accompanied by the 
Brahmans, nobles, and the first four ministers of State walking in 
pairs. The Queen, also seated on a palanquin, was accompanied by 
the wives of the astrologers (hora) and grus, and the wives of the first 
four ministers, in pairs. They made nine pradaksina circuits of the 
pavilion, and then the King entered the curtained enclosure. The 
Master of Ceremonies stood in front of the pavilion, the palace ladies 
sat outside the curtains, while the four grits and the first four ministers 
of State sat inside the curtains. Of the latter, the Brali Gldh held the 
State Sword (brah kharga) ; the Baladeba held a guitar ; the Van 
held betel-flowers ; and the Yamaraja held a standard of victory. 
One official blew a conch, another beat the big drum, another played 
the cymbals, and yet another beat the palace drum. The King mounted 
the right hand pan of the balance. In the left pan were placed the 
royal gifts, equivalent to the King's weight. Thus the King was 
weighed, and after him the Queen ; and the royal alms were given 
to the Brahmans. Then the procession returned, and there was a 

1 Sources : BRB., p. 535 ; KM. ; HV. (not mentioned in NN.). 


great feast, in the course of which it was said " the left is silver, the 
right is gold ", evidently with reference to the royal weighing, in which 
the royal gifts were silver, but the King was gold. 


1. The Significance and Function of the Ceremony. 

We now proceed to study the Eoyal Bounty as displayed for the 
benefit of the Buddhist monks, which remains to the present day one 
of the most important and most flourishing of all Siamese State 
Ceremonies. Dot Kathina, which in its general sense means the laying 
down of robes for the monks, is a purely Buddhist observance, and is 
the only purely Buddhist festival which I deal with in this book. 
There are other important annual Buddhist feasts, such as (1) VaisaJcha- 
pujd, in the sixth lunar month, which commemorates the Birth, 
Enlightenment, and Death of the Buddha ; (2) Khau Barsd, in the eighth 
month, the beginning of the Buddhist retreat, and (3) Mdgha-pujd, 
held on full moon day of the third month, to commemorate the 
exposition of the Pratimoksa made on that day by the Buddha to his 
1,250 disciples of the four congregations ; while the full moon period 
of this month is also largely taken advantage of by the people for 
pilgrimages to the Brah-pdda, the sacred footprint of Buddha in the 
hills near Labapuri. But all these, although they are under royal 
protection, and the King is himself present at some of the religious 
services, listens to sermons and makes offerings to the priests, are 
not primarily royal ceremonies. They are popular ceremonies, and 
as such belong to a study of Siamese Buddhism. This may be the 
better realized when it is remarked that similar ceremonies continue 
to exist in Ceylon and Burma, where the kingship has passed away 
and the European government takes no active part in the proceedings. 

On the other hand, although it is important to remember that the 
King of Siam protects all Buddhist activities, it is only in the Royal 
Kathina that he takes a predominant part, a part eminently 
characteristic of the traditional Buddhist monarch. Indeed, the 
sociological value of the Royal Kathina for the maintenance of social 
integrity and the continued prosperity of the Buddhist religion in 
Siam is exceeded by no other ceremony, for the following three 
reasons : (1) the King, by the lavishness of his gifts and his personal 
profession of faith at the altar, impresses upon the people in a truly 
regal way his belief in the national religion, and thus the love and 
respect which the people have for their monarch ; (2) the example 


of the King inspires the people with a desire to emulate his generosity, 
and by the Kathinas of nobles and private persons which take place 
on a smaller scale* all over the country, every monastery is provided 
for and the growth of the Buddhist religion is stimulated ; (3) the Royal 
Kathina processions by land and by water are almost the only occasions, 
other than the Coronation, on which the people can see their monarch 
pass by in the pomp and circumstance of Old Siam. While the State 
Processions on these occasions are not so magnificent as those which 
take place at the Coronation, yet I think they are of greater sociological 
value, for they take place, not once in a life-time, but every year, and 
the volume pf the crowds that line the route can leave no doubt as 
to the great hold which royal pageantry still exercises over the minds 
of the people. Indeed, it is above all the frequency and regularity of 
these occasions which give them such great value. 1 

2. Description of the modern Royal Kathina. 

The period of the annual presentation of Kathina robes is from the 
middle of the eleventh month (Asvina or Asvayuja) until the middle 
of the following month (Karttika), i.e. October-November, the rains 
having then practically finished, and the Buddhist Retreat being at 
an end. There are four classes of Kathina : (1) Kathina Hlrnh, the King's 
Kathina ; (2) Kathina Cau, the Prince's Kathina ; (3) Kathina Khun-wdn, 
the nobleman's Kathina ; and (4) Kathina Br'ai, the people's Kathina. 
During the above-mentioned period, processions of one or another 
class of Kathina are to be seen every day. When I lived near the 
river bank, some miles above Bangkok, I used to see the gaily decorated 
boats of the Kathina Brai, with bands playing and everyone in the 
highest spirits and dressed in his best and brightest garments, 
passing up and down the river, and there were often two or three such 
processions in one day. I have also been present on two occasions 
at a nobleman's Kathina (that of the former Lord Chamberlain), and 
on one occasion at a Kathina Cdu (that of Prince Dhani Nivat). I have 
also several times watched the King's Kathina processions, on land 
and water, though it was not possible for me to be present in the 
Temple during the ceremony, as I was in the case of the other Kathinas. 
But apart from the fact that the King's Kathina is accompanied by 
greater dignity, and is not turned into a popular feast by the donor 
of the gifts for the benefit of his friends, there is little difference in 

1 It has been suggested to me that in Old Siam these processions had another 
important function. It was in similar processions of barges that warlike expeditions 
used to go down to attack places like Nagara Sri Dharmaraja, and the annual Kathinas 
gave the men valuable naval training. 


the actual ceremonies within the temple, for Buddhism demands 
equal humility from all its devotees, whether king or coolie, and the 
King makes the same profession of faith when presenting the robes 
as does the humblest of his subjects. 

The principal monasteries in the city and suburbs are designated 
Vat Hlvah, that is, Koyal Monasteries. These are under the special 
protection of the King, and expect to receive their Kathina gifts from 
him. But there are so many of them that it would make too great a 
demand on the King's time to visit them all, and so nobles are appointed 
to represent him at the more distant ones. Some of the royal Vats 
are visited by the King by state carriage, or nowadays by motor-car. 
These Kathina s take place with little or no show, and are of no great 
interest. I shall therefore confine myself to considering those great 
Royal Kathinas which take place with the pomp of Old Siam. One 
of these takes the form of a procession by land, in the course of which 
the King visits the most important monasteries of the capital, Vat 
Brah Jetavana, Vat Pavaranivesa, and Vat Rajapabitra. As has been 
mentioned in Chapter VII, the Royal Coronation Progresses have 
adopted the features of Kathina, the Progress by Land having lost its 
original significance as a pradaksina circumambulation, and the 
Progress by Water having been added in analogy to the Water Kathina. 
I shall therefore only note the main differences between the Kathina 
Procession and the Coronation Progress. 

The order of procession at the last Land Kathina (Kathina Pak) 
that I witnessed (14th October, 1930), was somewhat as follows 
(PI. XXX) : 



Numerous units of modern troops, representative of all arms, p * 

S j i * i j **J 

7| P and military bands 3 s- 

& ^o 

jj 2 THE ROYAL PARTY g 5 " 

j O A Nobleman A Nobleman ^ ? 

|-g *j Flag Mag g | 

OD c K A Nobleman A Nobleman J 5 

5 | "o Drum Major | | g 

g g Metal Drum Metal Drum 3 ? JT 

g g "g Players of Ceremonial Instruments 2, ^ g 

3 3 * Wo* 

J J s 1 Bearers of Royal Weapons g g ^ 

J3 The King on a Palanquin ; Sunshade, Umbrella, and Fan ' W |. 

g "3 | Bearers of Royal Insignia SL IT 

,3 .o EH The King's offerings to Religion on a State Palanquin H d 2 

6 82 I i-8* 

Jg State Chargers >g ^ 

W H.R.H. the Prince of Nagara Svarga, mounted g* 

: Hunykok TiHtr* Prf**, LfiJ. 



\ To face jutjje ^02, 


r* : > :*-iS'ar*^ 



There is little that, calls for special notice in this procession, since 
it is made up of elements which have already been considered in 
some detail in connection with Coronation, and which are characteristic 
of all royal processions. But the Kafhina is naturally on a smaller 
scale, although sufficiently impressive. The main difference which 
I noticed between this and similar processions in the last reign was 
the absence of the Mahhatlek, abolished by the present King. In 
Old Siam such processions were swelled by the presence of numerous 
princes, each carried on a palanquin and surrounded by his own 
retinue bearing his insignia of rank. It is also to be noticed that 
the King wears plain white military uniform with plumed helmet, 
whereas in Old Siam he wore full monarchical dress and the Kafhina 
Crown, which is now seen only in Coronation Progresses. The innova- 
tion is not a happy one, and strikes one as most incongruous, affecting 
as it does the central feature of the Royal Party. 

The last Water Kathin a (Kafhina Nam) which I witnessed took place 
on the next day, 15th October, 1930, when the King visited Vat 
Arun, in accordance with old custom. Palace guards were drawn 
up at the landing-stage in front of the palace, and when the King 
arrived by motor-car the military band blared forth the National 
Anthem. The King was escorted down the jetty, beneath a royal 
umbrella, and embarked in a pavilion barge, accompanied by a number 
of noblemen. There was also a reserve pavilion barge for use on the 
return journey. It is interesting to note that on the occasion of 
Kathinas the King does not himself ride in a brah-dl-ndn barge, which 
supreme honour is reserved for the King's offerings to religion 
(PI. XXXI) ; and in the Kafhina procession all the state barges are 
quite plain gilded structures without figure-heads, the great Haiisa 
and Naga barges being reserved for the Coronation. There were a 
number of drum barges and escort barges, but probably the whole 
number did not exceed thirty, whereas in the old days there were as 
many as 150 to 200, this number including those of numerous princes 
and nobles, whose rank was indicated by the varying degree of 
magnificence of the barges. 

When the King reaches a Vat at which it has been arranged that 
he should present gifts, the palanquin, in the case of a Land Kafhina, 
is drawn up against a flight of steep brick steps, the King alighting 
and proceeding on foot to the temple between the files of a guard of 
honour, while the military band plays the National Anthem, in 
opposition to the blowing of the ceremonial conches. The path to 
the temple is carpeted with matting exclusively for the King to walk 
upon. In the case of a Water Kathina the King alights similarly at 


the riverside landing of the temple. In Old. Siam the handrail of 
the landing was wound with white cloth, as a sign that the landing 
might not be passed by any Siamese subject in a standing posture, or 
with covered head. Hence all boatmen rowing their boats standing, 
in gondola-like fashion, had to go down on their knees, just as they 
had to do before the palace, as a sign that the temple-landing was, 
for the time being, the King's landing. 

3. The Ceremony in the Temple. 1 

On leaving the palanquin or barge, as the case may be, the King 
walks to the uposatha, or temple proper, and at the door takes one 
complete set of monk's robes from the hands of the official who is 
holding them, and then enters the temple. At the far end of the temple 
the great image of Buddha is seated on the decorated and illuminated 
altar, and the monks are seated in rows at the upper end. The King 
places the set of robes on a table specially prepared for the purpose, 
on which are five golden vases of flowers, five golden dishes of parched 
corn, five golden candlesticks with their candles, and five incense 
sticks. The number five represents the five Buddhas of the present 
world cycle, Gautama Buddha, the three Buddhas who preceded 
him, and the future Buddha, Maitreya. 

The King then pays homage before the image three times with 
joined palms, each time repeating the Pali salutation to the Buddha, 
" Namo tassa bhagavato, arahato sammd sambuddhasa." The Abbot 
then lifts his fan and holds it before his eyes, so that he may not be 
distracted, and thrice repeats the same salutation. The King then 
proceeds formally to offer the robes to the priests, and the monks 
signify their acceptance, " Sadhu, Sadhu ! " and the Abbot addresses 
the fraternity as follows : 

" This phd kathina has been given to us by His most illustrious 
Majesty the King, who being endued with exceeding goodness and 
righteousness, has condescended to come hither himself, and present 
these garments to us, a company of Buddhist Priests, without 
designating any particular person by whom they shall be worn ; 
but leaving it for us as a company, to decide who of us is most in 
need, and who of us has attained to the fifth degree of Anisan$a 
(fruitfulness in holy living), and who of us practise the eight rules 
of Matikd (priestly etiquette)." 

1 There is a description of the Ceremony in the Temple at Royal Kathinas in the 
Bangkok Calendar for 1863, but most of it is unreliable, being very elaborate, whereas 
the Royal Kathina ceremony is, in fact, very simple. For the information in this 
section I am mainly indebted to my friend Braky a Prijanusasana, 


The Abbot divides *the robes in the King's presence, and the King 
makes a few other miscellaneous presents as well as special suits 
of robes for those monks who have distinguished themselves in the 
Pali language. The monks then pronounce a short form of partita, 
as follows : 

" AtireJca vassasatam jivatu, diyhdyuko hotu, arogo hotu, sukhito 
hotu ; siddhi kiccam, siddhi kammam, siddhi labho, jayoniccam 
(Paramindara) Mahdrdjavarassa bhavatu sabbadd. Kho thawdi phra : 

The last sentence is Siamese, and the whole has been translated as 
follows : 

" May you live over one hundred years in the fullness of vigour, free 
from disease and happy ; may all your wishes be fulfilled, all your 
works accomplished, all advantages accrue to you ; may you always 
triumph and succeed, Parammdra (the King's name), august 
Sovereign. May it be so forever ! We beg to tender (to you) this 
blessing." x 

The King then again pays homage before the image and leaves the 
temple. He spends about half-an-hour in each Vat. 

4. The Royal Kafhina in the Seventeenth Century. 

It is evident that the European travellers and missionaries who 
visited Siam during the seventeenth century were just as forcibly 
struck by the splendour of the Kathina processions at Ayudhya as is 
any modern observer. Tachard, Schouten, and Kaempfer all make 
mention of them, though the latter, who writes of Ktimbac (Kathina 
Pak) and Ktinam (Kathina Nam), confuses the latter with the ceremony 
of "Speeding of the Outflow". 2 But the best description of a 
seventeenth century Kathina procession, as well as the earliest, is that 
of van Vliet, who was in charge of the Dutch East India Company's 
interests in Siam from 1629 to 1634, in the reign of King Prasada 
Don. 3 The account of the Water Procession is not specially interesting, 
except for tbe large number of barges (350 to 400) and of persons 
(20,000 to 25,000) which he states took part in it. This is probably 
no great exaggeration, for in those days Ayudhya was very rich, and 
the king's outward show of magnificence was of the utmost social 
importance ; and we must not forget that the queens and members 
of the harem accompanied the king in their barges. 

1 Ge (1), p. 115. 

* Kaempfer, History of Japan, 1690-2, reprint of Scheuchzer's English translation, 
1906, vol. i, p. 72. 

3 Van Vliet, Description of the Kingdom of Siam, Leyden, 1692, translated into 
English in JSS., vol. vii, 1910, pt. i, pp. 23-6. 


On the other hand, van Vliet's description of the Kathina Pak is 
of great importance and interest because we know from the Siamese 
Annals that the Land Kathina was not established in Ayudhya until 
the reign of King Prasada Don, that is not prior to 1630, so that van 
Vliet must have witnessed some of the earliest of these land processions. 
To anyone who is acquainted with the topography of Ayudhya, with 
its network of canals and absence of roads, it is easy to understand 
why the earlier Kathina processions had always been by water. Indeed, 
the temples as well as the houses of the people were all situated along 
the banks of the waterways, and were most naturally approached by 
boat. The Thai were an amphibious people, and still are, in the 
neighbourhood of Ayudhya and other riverine towns. In the early 
days of Bangkok the same conditions prevailed, and the sole means 
of communication by land was by means of narrow muddy lanes, 
ill-suited to a royal procession. But in the later period of Ayudhya's 
history, just as in later times in Bangkok, better thoroughfares were 
made and temples were built which could be easily approached by 
land. Thus the Kathina Pak came into being, and was probably 
modelled on the Coronation pradaksina procession, which was a very 
ancient institution, and was always possible, even at Ayudhya, on 
account of the flat open space which surrounded the city wall. On 
the other hand, we have seen that the Coronation Progress by Water 
is a late addition of the Bangkok period, in analogy to the Kathina Nam. 

Van Vliet mentions that there was, in his time, only one Royal 
Kathina by land, but many by water which took place at the end of 
October or in the beginning of November. His description of the 
land procession, which he says was not every year arranged in the 
same way, is of sufficient interest to be quoted in extenso, and is as 
follows : 

" First come in stately order going from the palace to the principal 
temple called Nappetat [Na Brah Dhatu] about 80 or 100 elephants > 
which are sumptuously decorated. On each of these elephants is 
seated, besides two armed men, a mandarin in his gilded little house 
having in front of him a golden basin containing cloth and presents 
for the priests. Then follow 50 to 60 elephants, on each of which 
are sitting 2 to 3 men, each of whom is armed with bows and arrows. 
After this come, also seated on elephants, the 5 to 6 greatest men of 
the kingdom, some of them wearing golden crowns but each with 
his golden or silver betel box or any other mark of honour given to 
him by the king. They are accompanied by their suites of 30 to 60 
men afoot. Following those come 800 to 1,000 men armed with pikes, 
knives, arrows, bows and muskets and also carrying many banners, 
streamers and flags. Among these armed men are mixed about 70 
or 80 Japanese who are gorgeously dressed and carry excellent arms. 


The musicians who follow the soldiers play on pipes, trombones, horns 
and drums and the sound of all these instruments together is very 
melodious. The horses and elephants of the king are adorned copiously 
with gold and precious stones and are followed by many servants 
of the court carrying fruits and other things to offer. Many mandarins 
accompany these servants. Then follow on foot with folded hands 
and stooping bodies (like everyone who rides or walks in front of the 
king) many nobles, among them some who are crowned. Then comes 
the red elephant decorated very nicely with gold and precious stones. 
Behind this elephant follow two distinguished men, one of them 
carrying the royal sword and the other one the golden standard, 
to which a banner is attached. A gilded throne follows after them 
showing how former kings used to be carried on the shoulders of the 
people, and then follows His Majesty sitting on an elephant and wearing 
his royal garments and his golden crown of pyramidal shape. He 
is surrounded by many nobles and courtiers. Behind His Majesty 
comes a young prince, the legal child of the supreme king, who at 
present is eleven years old. The king's brother, being the nearest 
to the throne, follows then with great splendour, and seated on 
elephants in little closed houses come after this the king's mother, 
the Queen and His Majesty's children and the concubines. Finally 
many courtiers and great men on horseback, and 300 to 400 soldiers 
who close the procession. Altogether about six or seven thousand 
persons participate in this ceremony, but only his Majesty, his wives, 
his children, his brother, the four highest bishops and other priests 
enter the temple. Having stayed inside the temple for about two 
hours the king and the whole splendid train return to the palace in 
the same order as here described. The streets are very crowded with 
people from the palace to the temple, but everyone is lying with 
folded hands and the head bent to the earth. It is forbidden to 
anyone to look at the king's mother, his wives or children, and the people 
turn their faces when the royal family passes. Only strangers or 
foreign ambassadors are allowed to look at them." I 

There are a few points in the above description which call for 
comment, as follows : 

(1) The presence of a red (white ?) elephant in the procession, and 
of war elephants, on one of which the king was mounted. Elephants 
were much prized in the Ayudhya period because of their use in war, 
and hence took part in royal processions just as modern artillery 
does nowadays ; and they were also considered as mounts most suited 
to the royal dignity, from very early times, and also were no doubt 
the most practical means of transport through the muddy lanes of 
Ayudhya. But now that their military value has gone they have 
completely disappeared from the streets of Bangkok, except on certain 
special occasions. One, for example, sometimes appears in the pro- 
cession of the Swinging Festival. But neither ordinary elephants, 

1 Van Vliet, loc. cit. 


nor the white elephants, which are still maintained in Bangkok, ever 
take part in the Kathina. 

(2) Japanese settled in large numbers in Siam during the reign 
of King Ekadas*aratha (1605-10), and the Japanese bodyguard, of 
which van Vliet speaks, was instituted by that king. But shortly 
after van Vliet's time, in 1632, all Japanese were either massacred or 
expelled from Ayudhya by King Prasada Don, who regarded their 
presence with apprehension. 1 

(3) In the Bangkok period, queens and palace ladies have ceased 
to accompany the royal Kathina. 

(4) Van Vliet's statement that the streets were crowded with 
people is certainly inaccurate, as we know from many other sources 
that right up to the time of Kama IV the people were confined behind 
wicker fences during a royal progress. Van Vliet's remark on the 
conduct of the people during a Kathina Nam is interesting, however. 
He says : 

" Along the whole way which His Majesty passes, the houses, 
monasteries and temples are closed with mats, and nobody is allowed 
to stay in them in order that nobody may look at the king from a 
place higher than that of His Majesty." 

Evidently the houses all along the river bank had to be completely 
evacuated, as a person even lying prostrate on the ground floor of a 
house near the river might very well be higher than the position of 
the king in his barge ; and I observed at King's College, a two-storied 
building on the river bank, some miles above Bangkok, that the 
students were not allowed to remain on the upper floor when the 
King was passing in his motor launch. 

5. The Early History of the Kathina. 

In the days of the Buddha, the tradition is that the ascetic monks 
refused all offers of new robes and dressed themselves only in such 
rags as they found in graveyards which they stitched together into 
the semblance of a robe ; and they preferred a dirty yellow colour, 
for such was the colour of the dress of robbers and outcasts. In later 
times, even in Siam, there may have been ascetic monks who still 
followed this ancient practice, and then arose the custom of wrapping 
dead bodies in many unnecessary shrouds, for it was believed that 
by getting the monks to accept these robes, much merit would accrue 
to the dead person. This custom still survives, and in Royal Crema- 
tions it accounts for the Satdpakarana Rite. 

1 Wood, History of Siam, 1926, pp. 159 and 176. 


In later days, whe.n monks had adopted more luxurious habits, 
they accepted perfectly new robes dyed yellow, but to maintain 
the semblance of the old asceticism the new robes had to be made 
from a number of pieces of cloth patched together, and so that too 
great care should not result in too well-made a garment, the monk's 
robe had, and still has, to be made in a single day and a night. The 
old meaning of the words Dot Kathina is "to lay down a pattern " in 
order to cut patchwork by it. The pattern is the kathina t which in 
ancient times the monks of Buddha used in cutting their cloth in 
patches, to be sewed together to make their outer and inner robes. 
The cloth was cut with a knife, because it was considered sinful to 
tear it. But now the monks do not have to make their robes them- 
selves, since the laymen save them the trouble, and although they 
do not use the kathina as an aid to cutting the patches, but do it by 
eye, the work still retains the name, which, as we have seen, is 
also applied to the whole ceremony. The effect of this modification 
of old custom, which took place many hundred years ago, has resulted 
in the elevation of the monks from their former humble position, but 
it also has great value in providing one of the chief methods by which 
the laymen, and above all the King, can make merit and show their 
regard for religion in a practical way. 

The inscription of King Rama Garnhen, A.D. 1293, gives the 
following important reference to Buddhism in general and Kathina 
in particular: 

" The inhabitants of Sukhodaya are given to alms, to the 
observance of the precepts and to charity. King Rama Gamhen, 
sovereign of Sukhodaya, as well as the princes and princesses, men 
and women, nobles and chiefs, all without exception, without 
distinction of rank or sex, practise with devotion the religion of 
Buddha and observe the precepts during the rainy season retreat. 
At the end of the rainy season there take place the Kathina ceremonies 
which last a month. During these ceremonies they make offerings 
of heaps of money, heaps of areca, heaps of flowers, and of cushions 
and pillows. The offerings made each year amount to two millions. 
They conduct Kathina ceremonies as far as the monastery of Arannikas, 
yonder, and when they return to the city, the procession stretches 
from the monastery of Arannikas to the border of the plain. There 
everyone prostrates himself while the lutes and guitars resound and 
hymns and chants are played. Whoever likes to play, plays ; 
whoever likes to laugh, laughs ; whoever likes to sing, sings." l 

Thus, though we have few details, it appears that the Kathina 
was an established institution in Rama Gamhen's time ; but we know 
that it cannot have been so for long, since it was only in the thirteenth 

1 Coed6a, Les Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, p. 45. 


century that Hinayanism was firmly established in the young State 
of Sukhodaya (although it had been established considerably earlier 
in the neighbouring State of Lambun), and the very mention of it in 
this inscription (it is, so far as I know, mentioned in no later ones) 
indicates that the King was very proud of a custom which he, in all 
probability, had himself introduced. 

Further evidence in support of this is provided by King Kama IV 
in an article called " Origin of Vat Visitations ", published post- 
humously in the Siam Repository. 1 The author evidently bases 
his conclusions on some information derived from the Northern 
Annals to the effect that the Kathina was introduced somewhat 
in its present form in the reign of Brah Rvan, a name applied 
indiscriminately to most of the rulers of Sukhodaya, but more 
particularly to Rama Gamhen. He states that at that time the 
royal Vats were visited in the season of the full moons of October 
and November by the royal barges, containing baskets of cloths 
and baskets of food with branches placed in the centre of them, on 
which were suspended lanterns and strips of yellow cloth, the latter 
apparently in memory of less abundant times when the monks were 
obliged to search for rags on cremation grounds. The procession by 
water apparently took place at night, and the king was accompanied 
by nobles and palace ladies. He was received by the monks at each 
Vdi and they let off fireworks in his honour, and the people gave 
themselves up to amusements. 

But though, so far as Siam is concerned, the Kathina originated 
in the thirteenth century when Hinayanism had obtained Royal 
Patronage, nevertheless it is undoubtedly an extremely ancient 
ceremony in the older Buddhist countries. In Burma it bas flourished 
since an early period as a state ceremony under the name Kateindaw 
Pwe. 2 Regulations for the Kathina ceremony are laid down in 
the Mahavagga, and in the Buddha's day, even if the Kathina 
ceremony as we know it had not yet taken shape on account 
of the early asceticism of the monks which obliged them to 
seek cast-off rags, kings were very lavish in their gifts of food and 
pleasant monastic groves, and it cannot have been long before the 
discipline, at least of some sects, was sufficiently relaxed to enable 
them to accept robes. But though the Kathina in its special form 
was a product of Buddhism, we cannot doubt that it was only an 
outgrowth of the age-old duty of Vedic kings to protect and bestow 
generous gifts on the Brahmans. 

1 April, 1868. * ERE. iii, p. 35. 


6. The Royal Regatta.. 

From the time of Sukhodaya it has always been the custom of 
Siamese kings to regale those who assisted and took part in the Royal 
Kathina processions, and practically all members of the general public 
as well, with a feast to celebrate the termination of the royal merit- 
making. We have seen that mention is made of sports and amuse- 
ments as following the Kathina in the inscription of Rama Garhhen. 
In the Ayudhya period, until 1767, this festival took the form of a 
regatta, in which the King's barge, the Queen's barge, and those of 
a number of officials took part in a race. From the result prognostics 
were drawn : if the King's barge lost, it betokened the prosperity 
of the realm ; but if it won, it was a sign of impending calamities 
and famine. 1 This soothsaying was evidently a Brahmanical survival, 
since we find such rites connected with manv Hindu ceremonies. As 
a state festival this was discontinued, but Prince Damrong considers 
that the popular annual beanfeast with boat races, which takes 
place annually on the eighth waning of the eleventh month in honour 
of the Paknarii Pagoda at the mouth of the river, is certainly the 
modern representative of the Royal Regatta, but it is entirely Buddhist 
and no prognostics are drawn. Graham 2 has incorrectly identified 
this Paknarii Water Festival as a survival of the Ceremony of the 
Speeding of the Outflow. 

The Royal Regatta, or its modern equivalent at Paknarii, is of 
considerable social value, coming as it does immediately after the 
somewhat strenuous Kathina season, and also affording relief and 
much needed amusement to the many young men who have just 
obtained freedom after their three months' sojourn in the priesthood. 

It is natural in a hot climate, and with people who are more or 
less amphibious, that royal sports should be of an aquatic nature, 
especially in low-lying and swampy countries. That the Siamese 
Royal Regatta is in accordance with the traditional Indian idea of 
what should be the sport of kings, the following examples show : 

Thus in Pagan, an old capital of Burma : 

" In the hot season the king (Narathihapate, A.D. 1255-90) loved 
to sport at splashing water. He made a great shade from the palace 
to the river wharf and walled it in so that men might not see, and 
built a royal lodge for security thereby ; and taking his queens, 
concubines, and all his women he was wont to go along a tunnel of 
cabins and sport in the water." 3 

1 KM., and NN. 9 p. 92. 2 Siam, ii, p. 278. 

3 Glass Palace Chronicle, Tin and Luce, p. 168. 


Again, in ancient Ceylon, we have : 

" The King Devanaihpiyatissa, who had arranged a water-festival 
for the dwellers in the capital, set forth to enjoy the pleasures of the 
chase " * ; 

and at a later period, 

" When then the king had come into the capital as victor in battle 
and had raised the parasol (of sovereignty) he went to a festival at 
the Tissa-tank." 2 

Lastly, in Ancient India, there is the remark in Ghdta Jdtaka 
(No. 454), that :- 

" One day the king proposed that they should go and disport 
themselves in the water." 

1 M. xiv, 1. 2 M. xxxv, 38. 



1. The Anniversary of the Coronation. 

This festival, known as Cliatra Mangala (literally the " blessing 
of the royal umbrella '') lasts for four days, which are, in this reign, 
23rd to 26th February. It is a festival of comparatively modern 
origin, having been instituted by King Rama IV, who wished Siam, 
in this respect, to follow the practice of other nations of the modern 
world. 1 The programme of ceremonies which he laid down has been 
followed ever since with such minor modifications as later kings have 
thought fit to introduce. The following were the rites as carried out 
on the last Anniversary of the Coronation of the late King Rama VI, 
9th to 12th November, 1925. 

At 5 p.m. on the first day, in the Hall of Amarindra, the annual 
memorial service in honour of the former kings of the dynasty was 
celebrated by a chapter of seventy-five monks in the King's presence. 
The miniature golden urns containing the relics of the five previous 
kings and their first queens were placed on an altar in the hall during 
the service. Before the service the King presented royal warrants 
conferring various ranks upon some fifty-two monks. Next day, also 
at 5 p.m., the King proceeded to the Tusita Hall, where eighty high 
priests and abbots of the capital and the provinces celebrated a religious 
service, invoking prosperity for the kingdom. On the third day, at 
10 a.m., the King again went to the Tusita Maha Prasada and, with 
the assistance of the members of the Royal Family and high officials, 
presented food to the monks who celebrated the service the previous 
evening. After this the Court Brahmans celebrated a benedictory 
service, the rites of which comprise a show of mumbling texts from 
their sacred books, performing a man dian for the benefit of the 
nine-tiered White Umbrella (symbolical of the monarchy) to which they 
tie a strip of red cloth, and finally sprinkling the Umbrella and the 
Royal Weapons with lustral water. 2 

After 4 p.m. on the same day the King proceeded to the same 
Hall and, after lighting the candles at the altar, seated himself upon 
the throne, under the great Umbrella of State. The State trumpeters 

1 BRB., pp. 56 sqq. 2 BRB., p. 60. 



blew a fanfare, accompanied by the drummers on the State metal 
drums. A royal scribe next read a decree promoting a Cau Fa Prince 
from Kram Khun to Kram Hlvan, creating a Cau Fa Princess a 
Kram Khun, and promoting a Brahyd to the rank of Cdu Brahyd. The 
King then handed the tablet of promotion to each recipient, poured 
lustra! water on their heads and anointed them. Afterwards the King 
held a Chapter of the Order of Cula Com Klau (an order confined to 
royalty), promoting certain members of the Order, and conferring 
the honour of knighthood and companionship on a number of new 
members. At the end of the Chapter the King retired to the Biman 
Ratya Hall, to hold a Chapter of the Ladies' Division of the same 
Order, and to make promotions and appointments. The King then 
proceeded to the Pantheon to light candles and incense, and to make 
obeisance before the statues of the former kings of the dynasty. 
Members of the Royal Family and officials also did reverence in the 
same way. 

On this day, at noon, the Army and Navy fired a Royal Salute of 
101 guns. At 10 p.m. on the 12th November there was a Court 
Levee, but the King was unable to attend in person by reason of the 
malady which shortly afterwards proved fatal. 

The Anniversary of the Coronation of the present king (23rd to 26th 
February) is celebrated with almost the same detail as the above 
except that on the third day the King does not hold a Chapter of the 
Cula Com Klau Order, nor are there any observances in the Pantheon. 
These features have in this reign been transferred to the King's Birth- 
day Festival, and in their place the King now holds a State Audience 
in the Amarindra Hall, similar to that which followed the Coronation, 
and which in the last reign was held yearly in connection with the 
King's Birthday. 

The Chdtra Mahgala is of little historical interest, having originated 
in Siam so recently. On the other hand it is of the greatest sociological 
importance. Unlike so many Siamese royal ceremonies, the meaning 
of which has been entirely forgotten and the functional value consists 
only of inspiring respect for the hallowed past, the Coronation 
Anniversary definitely belongs to and is a product of New Siam. It 
was instituted after Siam had broken with the past, and was a 
manifestation of the desire of the learned King Rama IV to bring 
his country into line with those more advanced countries of the 
West, and to inspire the people with the spirit of patriotism, something 
hitherto quite unknown to them. And yet the King was wise enough 
to found nearly all the component parts of the new ceremony on rites 
drawn from the stock of Siamese religion and culture the material 


that lay ready to hand and was most easily understood by the 

The rites maybe analysed as follows : 

(1) Buddhist services of benediction : Naturally these predominate, 
King Rama IV being such a staunch Buddhist, and the Chdtra 
Mangala is one of those valuable occasions on which the King shows 
his interest in the people's religion by conferring degrees of learning 
on distinguished monks ; and also shows his royal protection by 
presenting food to those who have officiated. 

(2) The Brahmans, although they take but a small part, are not 
forgotten as they might have been by an equally staunch Buddhist, 
but less broad-minded, king. Their presence gives to the festival that 
stamp of compatibility with ancient tradition which it would otherwise 
lack by reason of its modern origin. 

(3) The relics or statues of the former kings cannot be too frequently 
honoured during the course of the year as, especially in these days 
of communistic agitation, it is so important to preserve the people's 
respect for the ruling dynasty and the conception of the monarchy, 
quite apart from their love for the individual monarch. 

(4) Semi-religious features such as the promotion of officials, 
and non-religious items of European origin, such as the Order of Cula 
Com Klaiu, the Royal Salute, and the Court Levee, are all of value, 
applied in moderation, for the growth of self-respect, and the whole- 
some desire for advancement, the proper reward for services rendered 
to the Crown. 

(5) Taken as a whole, and in the estimation of the millions who 
take no actual part in it, the Chatra Mangala must have the effect of 
calling to mind by its name alone the grand pageant of Coronation 
with which almost every Siamese is familiar, at least from the pictorial 
reproductions of it which are to be met with in almost every home 
throughout the country. 

2. The Kings Birthday. 

This festival, like the Coronation Anniversary, is of comparatively 
modern origin in Siam, and the remarks which have been made as to 
the relative importance of the historical and sociological aspects of the 
latter also apply to the King's Birthday (Kara chalo'm brahjatiambarsa). 
It was founded by King Rama IV x for similar reasons to those which 
prompted him to institute the Chdtra Mangala. In Siam it had never 
been the custom for the birthday of anyone to be celebrated in any 
way, not even that of the Buddha ; but King Rama IV also instituted 

1 BRB., pp. 663 sqq. 


the festival of Vaisdkha Pujd, which commemorates the Birth, 
Enlightenment, and Death of the Buddha. It is probable that the 
kings of ancient India celebrated their birthdays and, as King Kama V 
remarks, that the ceremony of Tuldbhdra was held on such occasions. 
The Siamese always remembered the day of the week of the lunar 
month on which they were born, and the name of the animal which 
presides over the particular year of the cycle of twelve animal years ; 
this was important in connection with the horoscope with which every 
Siamese was provided, and which to a great extent controlled his 
conduct of life. This was the way in which the birthday of King 
Rama IV was commemorated, and is still followed in Cambodia, 
where King Norodom instituted the Birthday Festival in imitation 
of the action of King Rama IV. 1 But King Rama V, in order to 
avoid confusion, fixed his Birthday Celebrations for 21st September, 
in accordance with the newly-introduced solar calendar. King 
Rama VI's Birthday was on 1st January, and that of the present King 
is on 8th November. The duration of the festival has varied from 
five to three days, being at present of the latter extent. But when a 
king completes a cycle of twelve years, according to the old lunar 
reckoning, special celebrations are held in that year. This was the 
case in 1929, when King Prajadhipok attained the age of 36. 

The ceremonies follow, with minor variations, the rules laid down 
by King Rama IV. They are very similar to the ceremonies on the 
occasion of Chdtra Mangala. On alternate days there is a service in 
the Amarindra Hall by monks of the Maha Nikaya Sect or the reformed 
Dharmayutika Sect, and a distinguished abbot preaches a sermon. 
The Candle of Victory is lighted at the beginning of the festival, and 
extinguished at the end. The special texts recited on this occasion 
are the Mahasamayasutta and the Seven Parittas. On the following 
mornings the usual presentation of food to the officiating monks takes 
place. In the present reign the King chooses the occasion of his 
Birthday for the promotion of officials, the holding of a Chapter of the 
Cula Com Klau Order, and the paying of homage before the statues 
in the Pantheon. The special feature of the Birthday Festival, as 
distinct from the Chdtra Mangala, is that the King, on the day following 
his Birthday, takes a ceremonial bath, attended by the Brahmans, 
who accompany the proceedings with the usual ceremonial music, 
while the Army and Navy fire a salute of twenty-one guns. This 
ceremonial bath is not to be regarded as an abhiseka, but rather as a 
Hindu bath of purification. 

In considering the sociological value of this festival, by far the 
1 L., p. 322. - 


most important feature is the illumination of the city which is carried 
out during the three nights of the celebrations. This was introduced 
in the reign of King Rama V and the technique has now reached a 
very high standard. Not only the palace, and every government office, 
but the private house of every Siamese, so far as his means will 
allow, is brilliantly illuminated with designs which do great credit 
to the artistic sense of the people. Perhaps even more remarkable i& 
the fact that every foreign firm, Chinese, European, and American, 
competes to offer the most striking evidence of their respect for the 
monarch under whose protection they flourish. The words DRAN 
BRAH CAR&N, and their English equivalent LONG LIVE THE 
KING, flash in letters of fire from almost every building of any 
importance, and there could be no more obvious sign of the contented 
satisfaction of both Siamese and foreigners with the regime under 
which they live. The King and Queen greatly appreciate this 
spontaneous show of affection and never fail to drive round the 
city at night by motor-car, and to make a trip by launch to see the 
equally attractive illuminations of the riverside. 





1. Kite-flying. 

Despite the introduction of European sports, Kite-flying is still 
regarded by the Siamese as their national pastime, and as such has 
often been described by European writers. During the prevalence of 
the north-east monsoon, in every village and in every open space in 
the city, people, both young and old, are to be seen indulging in the 
amusement ; and on the Royal Cremation Ground there is an annual 
Kite-flying Festival, which the King and members of the Royal Family 
attend, and prizes are presented to those who are successful in the 
competitions. The latter take the form of (1) contests between pairs 
of kites, the object of which is for one to bring down the other, and 
(2) competitions in which the owners of the most beautiful or original 
kites, all of which are invariably made of paper and bamboo, are 
suitably rewarded. 

The above festival, and kite-flying in general, still retain great 
value as a suitable means of relaxation and gentle exercise in a hot 
climate, and as an occasion for popular social intercourse ; but no 
Siamese now remembers that there was once not only a public festivity, 
but also an important Royal Ceremony in connection with kite-flying. 
At least, such is the opinion of Geriiii, 1 who states that in the 
Ayudhya period, 

" large paper kites were flown with the object of calling up the 
seasonal wind by the fluttering noise they made. The festival, which 
took place in the 1st month, Margasirsa, was obviously connected 
with husbandry, as the wind prevailing at this season is the north-east 
monsoon, which when beginning to blow, sweeps the rain clouds 
away, so that fine weather sets in and the yearly flood quickly abates, 
the fields drying rapidly." 

I have not been able to find any Siamese reference to kite-flying 
in the Ayudhya period or earlier, except in the old legend Suvarna- 
hansa, in which a lover is led to his lady by following the string of a 
runaway kite, and Gerini's conclusion seems to be based entirely 
on the passage in La Loubere, 2 which mentions that the kite 

" of the King of Siam is in the Air every Night for the two Winter- 
months, and some Mandarins are nominated to ease one another 
in holding the String." 

1 Ge. (2). 2 L. L., p. 49. 



From this it appears that the Kite-flying was continued for many 
days in succession, until the desired result (the setting in of the north- 
east monsoon) had been obtained. It was thus a magical rather than 
a religious ceremony ; but there seems to be no evidence as to whether 
it was derived from India or from China. I suspect from the latter, 
since we know that kite-flying has achieved a similar degree of 
elaboration in that country. In China also, kites were used to drive 
away the devil, and in Corea they were used as scapegoats. 1 

2. Baruna Sdtra (Rain or Varuna Festival). 2 

This Ceremony has, from the days of Sukhodaya onwards, been 
performed in the ninth month (Sravana), a time when the commence- 
ment of the rains is urgently desired, and it has always been a ceremony 
of considerable importance in Siam, where the rice crop is absolutely 
dependent on the seasonal rains. 

The ceremony was entirely Brahmanical until perhaps as late as 
the Bangkok period, when the usual Buddhist modifications appeared. 
There are now three degrees of the ceremony. The lowest is performed 
every year, just before the Ploughing Ceremony, when a chapter of 
monks prays for rain, and at which the King always attends if he can. 
In seasons when a lack of rain is becoming rather serious, the monks 
carry out in procession the special image as hereafter described, and 
recite stanzas. Only in years of great drought is the ceremony, both 
Buddhist and Brahmanical, performed in full ; the last occasion being 
about thirty years ago. In ancient times, however, the Brahmanical 
rites were performed regularly every year with the intention of 
promoting the germination of seeds, but now they are, as already 
stated, reserved for times of great drought. 

The Brahmanical rites were last performed almost exactly as they 
were in the time of Sukhodaya. Offerings of rice and other grains 
are first made to the Hindu deities which are then carried out from 
the Brahmanic temples in a procession resembling that of the Ploughing 
Festival. They are then placed in an enclosure without a roof, so 
that they are exposed to the full heat of the sun. The Brahmans, 
with dishevelled hair and wearing only a loin-cloth such as they 
use when bathing, take it in turns to read passages from their books 
before the gods, at the same time waving cloud-coloured flags. This 
they do twice a day for three days. Each evening they escort the 
images back to their temple, and formerly they used, in doing so, to 
make a pradaksina circuit of the palace in order to honour the King. 

1 OB. ix, pp. 4 and 203. 

2 Sources : BRB. t pp. 540 sqq. ; NN., p. 87 (not mentioned in KM. or HV.). 


Sir James Frazer l Jias given numerous examples of the widespread 
idea of controlling the rain by magic. Apart from the preliminary 
oblations to the gqds, the Siamese ceremony exemplifies three widely 
known ways of producing rain by magic : (1) the imitative magic of 
waving cloud-coloured flags ; (2) the imitative magic of wearing 
bathing costumes, since " if you would make wet weather, you must 
be wet" 2 ; (3) doing violence to the gods, i.e. exposing them to the 
sun with the intention of making them feel for themselves the 
unpleasant conditions, so that they may rectify them. This is, 
wherever it is practised, the last means adopted, after prayer and 
imitative magic have exhausted the patience of the oppressed. 

The first two methods were not mentioned by Frazer as occurring 
in Siam since they were not mentioned by Bruguiere from whom he 
quotes ; but, on the other hand, Bruguiere 3 states that if the Siamese 
" want dry weather, they unroof the temples and let the rain pour 
down on their idols". But I can find no Siamese authority for 
the practise of such a rite, which, if it occurred, must have been 
very rare. 

Another method of producing rain which used sometimes to be 
employed was known as Bamruh Na, which means " clashing of 
tusks ". Two " must " elephants were tied to posts with strong 
ropes of sufficient length to allow their tusks to meet, but not long 
enough to allow them to inflict a wound. These animals being much 
excited by their " must " condition, would rush at each other in an 
attempt to fight and their tusks would clash, giving forth a loud sound. 
The animal which succeeded in forcing its tusks between those of its 
opponent and, with this leverage, in raising the other's head, was 
deemed to be the victor. The animals were then separated, and 
the mahouts indulged in a competitive dance and exchange of views 
regarding each other's skill and courage. This false combat was 
fought three times, followed by the dance and word war on the part 
of the mahouts. The movements, rhythm, and postures of the dance 
followed a set form. 4 It appears either that the clashing of tusks was 
a magical imitation of thunder, or that the mock fight was intended 
to inspire the rain gods with fear. 

The Buddhist modifications now form the more important and 
popular, though less interesting, portion of the ceremony. The monks 
carry out in procession a certain image of the Buddha to the royal plaza, 
and they perform a religious service before it. The image is carried 

1 OB. i, chap. 5, esp. pp. 296-9. 2 OB. i, p. 272. 

3 Annales de V Association de la Propagation de la Foi, v, 1831, p. 131. 

4 BRB., pp. 564 sq. and F. H. Giles in JSS. xxiii, pt. 2, p. 67. 


out into the open, no doubt in analogy to the procedure with regard 
to the Hindu gods, but the original magical idea has been lost, and 
the ceremony is rather a religious service of prayer. The particular 
attitude of the image carried in procession is the one known as Brah- 
gandharahrastara, i.e. calling down rain, according to the following 
passage in the traditional life of the Buddha : 

" When the Buddha stayed in Jetavana in the City of Savatthi, 
no rain fell and the rice withered all over the country. The water 
in the tanks, ponds and rivers was dried up and even the lotus pond 
from which the Buddha partook of water. Fishes suffered great distress, 
because the crows preyed upon them whilst the rest hid themselves 
in the inud. At that time the Buddha went with his alms bowl 
collecting food and when he saw this he felt pity. After having 
partaken of food the Buddha called Ananda asking him to bring him 
a bath cloth. Ananda said that the water was dried up since several 
days but the Buddha called for the bath cloth again, and when 
Ananda gave it to him, the Buddha covered his body with a part of 
it whilst he put the other part over his shoulder. He stood up near 
the pond, and is represented calling for rain with his right hand, 
and opening the left hand to catch the water, and then the rain was 
falling." i 

As one might expect, the religious prayer offered to the Buddha 
on these occasions, being in accordance with the general procedure 
at other popular festivals connected with the national religion, is 
more appreciated by the masses of the people than the obscure and 
little understood rites of the Court Brahmans. Nevertheless, there is 
room for the latter, amongst a people given to superstition, and, taken 
together, the Baruna Sdtra has still a strong hold over the people and 
great sociological value in enabling them to endure what must be a 
trying period of the year, considering that their very existence depends 
on the coming of the rains. The great power of this ceremony, as 
opposed to most magical ones, is that it can really never fail ; it is, if 
necessary, kept up indefinitely and rain must come sooner or later. 
Again, historical instances are recorded of rain having fallen 
immediately the ceremonies were undertaken, which is an example 
of the greater functional value of recorded history than of mere oral 
tradition, which sooner or later must forget or at least confuse such 

It is difficult to trace the path along which this Siamese ceremony 
has journeyed from India, by reason of the fact that perhaps no 
Brahmanic ceremony shows greater variations in detail in the various 
countries influenced by Indian civilization. In India itself there are 

1 Extract from translation of an essay of the Somtej Phra Paramanujit, the son 
of King Rama I, quoted in JSS., vol. x, 1913, pt. ii, p. 32. 


many such variations .which have been catalogued by Frazer, 1 and 
therefore it is not surprising that the rain-making ceremonies in the 
different countries .of Indo-China show little resemblance to each 
other, and indeed they have probably been grafted on to local 
primitive cults. 

In Burma there is a ceremony for the calling down of rain, called 
Mondt Puzaw, or worship of the Lord of the Clouds (presumably 
Varuna). It was of Indian origin, but apparently is now confined 
to prayer for rain by the Buddhist abbots, 2 and in Cambodia there is 
a rain-making ceremony called Bauchea krabey, in which a buffalo 
is sacrificed. 3 But neither of these forms throws any light on the 
evolution of the Siamese Brahmanic ceremony, which appears to be 
independently derived from India, and to be made up largely of late 
Tantric rites. 

3. The Speeding of the Outflow (Itii ro'a or lai ndm).* 

The Ceremony of the Speeding of the Outflow was formerly 
performed in the first lunar month (Margaslrsa). It was a magical 
ceremony designed to induce the dispersion of flood water, which at 
that time of year might be endangering the rice-crop. It was of great 
sociological importance, enabling the people to bear the strain of a 
period in which the entire fruits of the year's labour were in jeopardy, 
and the country was threatened with famine. It was not performed 
every year, but only after years of unusually heavy rainfall, when the 
floods assumed dangerous proportions, the last occasion being in the 
great flood year of A.D. 1831. 

Probably it was discontinued because the King himself, and not 
the Brahmans, performed this ceremony, and it would not add to 
the dignity of the King if it continued to rain, as it sometimes did, 
after the ceremony ; whereas the failure of a ceremony performed by 
the Brahmans would matter less. In fact, this was evidently felt as 
long ago as the seventeenth century by King Narayana, since La 
Loubere says : 

" The present King was the first that dispensed with this trouble- 
some work, and it is several years since it seemed abolished ; because, 
they say, that the last time he perform'd it, he had the disgrace of 
being surpriz'd with rain, although his Astrologers had promised him 
a fair day." 6 

The King, accompanied by the Royal Family, proceeded down the 
river in a grand procession of state barges. While officials beat gongs, 

1 Loc. cit. 2 ERE. art. " Burma". L., pp. 574 sqq. 

4 Sources : BRB., pp. 63 sqq., and KM. * L. L., p. 43. 


the King repeatedly waved the long-handled fan (bdjahrii) in the direc- 
tion of the sea, as an intimation to the flood-demon, i.e. the waters, 
to flow away rapidly. It was thus a rite of imitative magic, and is 
especially interesting as being, so far as I know, the only Siamese 
ceremony in which the King performs a rite, not as a god, but in the 
more primitive role of magician. 

Most of the European writers, such as Diogo do Couto l in the 
sixteenth century, Le Comte de Forbin, 2 John Struys, 3 Tachard, 4 
de Choisy, 5 and Kaempfer 6 in the seventeenth century, mention this 
ceremony. They all, however, make the mistake of confounding 
the royal fan with a sword with which, they say, the king cut the 
water. But this, as Gerini points out, 7 is absurd. They also, with 
greater accuracy, make mention of boat-races following the ceremony. 
These were a feature of the Ayudhya period in this ceremony as in the 
Royal Regatta, and as they still are in the Cambodian ceremony. But 
Graham 8 was wrong in identifying the modern Paknarii Festival with 
the lai ro'a, since the former is without a doubt a relic of the Royal 

Disregarding the usual Buddhist modifications which were added 
on in the Bangkok period (the presence of Buddhist monks in the 
procession who invoke the Buddha, represented by the image known 
as Brah Ham Samud, i.e. in the attitude of calming the ocean) one 
might suppose that the ceremony was of Brahmanic origin, despite 
the fact that no Brahmans took part in it. This supposition is 
confirmed by the Cambodian ceremony 9 which survives up to the 
present day, and includes two rites not known in Siam : (1) a rite in 
which a Brahman, after invocation of the Hindu deities, cuts a leather 
thong stretched across the river between two boats by means of the 
sacred sword. The meaning of this rite has not been satisfactorily 
explained ; (2) in which the king sprinkles himself with lustral water 
offered by the Brahmans. On the other hand, what would appear to 
be the essential rite of endeavouring to force the waters to disperse 
by waving the fan does not appear. Our knowledge of this ceremony 
is indeed fragmentary and unsatisfactory ; it can only be said with 
reasonable certainty that the Siamese form is Brahmanic, and was 
derived from India, probably via Cambodia. 

Decades, quoted in Bowring, i, p. 101. 2 Memoirs. 

Voyages, Eng. ed., 1684, p. 60. 

Voyage de Siam des peres Jesuites, Amsterdam, 1687, p. 221. 

Journal, Trevoux, 1712, p. 242 

i, p. 73, where he confuses this ceremony with Kathina nam. 

Ge. (2). * Siam, ii, pp. 78 sq. * L., chap. xii. 



My attention has recently been called by my friend, Monsieur Rene 
Nicolas, to a rain-making ceremony performed at Phnompenh in the 
reign of the present king Monivong of Cambodia. I thought it might be 
of interest to include it in this work, firstly, because it does not appear 
to have been published elsewhere, and secondly, because similar rites 
may have formerly been performed in Siam in connection with the Baruna 
Sdtra. The following is a copy of the programme for the celebration at 
Phnompenh, as I received it : 

Dimanche 18 aout 1929, de 18 h 15 d 20 h 15. 


dans la salle du Trone du Palais Royal 

a 1' occasion de la 

arm de solliciter la pluie pour la culture du paddy et la sante 

pnblique, suivies d'un the offert par 

Roi de Cambodge, 

en Thonneur de 

Madame et Monsieur Lavit 

Resident Superieur de Cambodge. 


I. Presentation des mets, dans des plateaux d'or et d'argent, aux 
Anges des quatres points cardinaux par douze danseuses representant 
quatre princes, quatre princesses et quatre ogres. 

II. Ballet des ofTrandes aux Anges dites Buong-Suong execute par 
les danseuses a 1'exception des quatre ogres qui sortent pour reapparaitre 
ensuite seuls sur la scene. 

III. Danse d'ouverture executee par 1'archange Vorchhun. 

IV. Promenade a travers les airs de la deese des mers Mekhala qui 
detient un joyau merveilleux. 

V. L'Ange-gcant Ream-Eyso cherche a s'emparer en vain du joyau 
qui eblouit quand la deesse Mekhala le montre. 

VI. Ballet des offrandes aux Anges dites " CHAP-ROBAM " execute 
par 1'ensemble de la troupe (Abondance de la saison pluvieuse, souhaits 
de bonne sante, de longevite et de bonheur). 

1 Siamese, Bvaii Svan (guardian genii). 


1. Dhanya-daha}- 

Until the end of the Ayudhya period there was a State Ceremony 
of Harvest Thanksgiving, known as Dhdnya-daha, or Burning of the 
Ears of Padi, which took place in the third month (Magha). In the 
Sukhodaya period, according to Nan Nabamasa, the King was present 
at the burning of the padi, but Khun Hlvan Ha Vat states that during 
the Ayudhya period the ceremony was carried out as follows : 

An official dressed as a " temporary king " proceeded to the royal 
padi fields in a procession similar to that of the Ploughing Ceremony. 
A dais had been erected on the fields, and on this a tiered umbrella-of- 
state, made of various kinds of padi. The mock king seated himself 
on the dais and then set fire to the straw umbrella. His retinue was 
divided into two parties, one dressed in green and the other in red, 
representing respectively the followers of Indra and Brahma. 2 These 
two parties of gods then ran to the burning umbrella and attempted 
to carry it off by force. Prognostics were drawn according to the 
party which was successful. 

According to the BansdvaJitdra for the reign of King Paramakosa 
the rites consisted, perhaps in addition to the Burning of the Padi, 
of a ceremony of Carrying Home the Padi (baraduJc khciu Ian nai 
rahdeh). The King himself went out in state to the Crown padi fields, 
and loaded some of the grain on to a sled, which was drawn to the 
palace by members of the royal family by means of a rope of twisted 
padi straw. On arrival at the palace a tiered umbrella was fashioned 
from this rope, the juice was pressed from the grain and was mixed 
with cocoa-nut milk to form a gruel, which was presented to the abbots 
of the royal monasteries. 

Taken as a whole, this ceremony is evidently a Sacrifice of First 
Fruits which, in the development of ritual, is a later stage than 
the primitive idea known as a Sacrament of First Fruits. Concerning 
such rites, Sir James Frazer 3 states that 

^ Sources : BRB., pp. 118 sqq. ; NN., p. 71 ; HV. ; the KM. simply says " phau 
Ichau mai mi ", i.e. " there is no burning of the padi ", the ceremony evidently having 
been in abeyance at the time the KM. was written. 

a Gerini in Ge. (2) states that there were four parties, representing the gods of the 
quarters, but he cites no authority. 

3 OB. viii, p. 109. 



" primitive peoples often partake of the new corn and the new fruits 
sacramentally, because they suppose them to be instinct with a divine 
spirit of life. At a later age, when the fruits of the earth are conceived 
as created rather* than as animated by a divinity, the new fruits are 
no longer partaken of sacramentally as the body and blood of the 
god ; but a portion of them is offered to the divine beings who are 
believed to have produced them. Originally, perhaps, offerings of 
first-fruits were supposed to be necessary for the subsistence of the 
divinities, who without them must have died of hunger ; but in after 
times they seem to be looked upon rather in the light of a tribute 
or mark of homage rendered by man to the gods for the good gifts 
they have bestowed on him. Sometimes the first-fruits are presented 
to the king, perhaps in his character of a god ; very often they are 
made over to the spirits of the human dead, who are sometimes thought 
to have it in their power to give or withhold the crops. Till 
the first-fruits have been offered to the deity, the dead, or the king, 
people are not at liberty to eat of the new crops." 

The Burning of the Ears of Padi and the Conveying of it Home are 
two stages in an interesting series of superimposed rites, illustrating 
the evolution of the Sacrifice of First Fruits from a very early period. 
I will attempt to analyse this series as follows : 

(1) The Burning of the Ears of Padi was originally a sacrifice to 
Agni, and as such can be traced back to the Vedic offering of first 
fruits or Agrayaneshti.^ 

(2) Later tbe king exercised his divine functions by himself 
receiving the fire offering (and we have seen that he was present 
at the ceremony during the Sukhodaya period). 

(3) But, for reasons to be discussed in a later chapter, he after- 
wards appointed a substitute " temporary king " to take his place. 

(4) A very interesting episode is the competition to obtain the 
spoil between the followers of Indra and Brahma. The meaning of 
this is quite forgotten, and I have seen no attempted explanation 
of it. When reading the account of the Vedic Agrayaneshti in the 
atapatha Brdhmana, however, it at once occurred to me that I had 
found a possible explanation : The Agrayaneshti oblations consisted 
of (i) a sacrificial cake on twelve potsherds for Indra and Agni ; (ii) a 
mess of boiled grains for the Visve Deva (All-gods), prepared with 
water or milk ; and (iii) a cake on one potsherd for heaven and earth. 
That this oblation was due to them was explained by a myth which 
stated that the gods had performed a sacrifice in order to rid the 
world of the asuras who were poisoning the food of all men. But the 
gods could not agree as to the partition of the sacrifice : 

1 tfatapatha Brahmana, ii, 4, 3, in SBE. xii, p. 369; and Paraskara-Qrihya 
Sutra, ni, 2, in SBE. xxix, p. 338. 


" Then they said, * To which of us shajl this belong ? ' They 
did not agree (each of them exclaiming), * Mine it shall be ! ' Not 
having come to an agreement, they said, ' Let us run a race for this 
(sacrifice) : whichever of us beats (the others) , his it shall be!' ' So be it ! ' 
they said, and they ran a race. India and Agni won, and hence 
that Indra-Agni cake on twelve potsherds ; Indra and Agni having 
won a share in it. And where Indra and Agni were standing when 
they had won, thither all the gods followed them." l 

I suggest that the struggle for the spoils between the representatives 
of the gods in Siam is identical with the race between the Vedic gods. 
One must, of course, after such an immense lapse of time, allow for 
a certain amount of modification and confusion, due especially to the 
introduction of the mock king and the loss of the original meaning 
of the rite. 

(5) The Conveying Home of the Padi, rather than being a distinct 
ceremony, seems to be a later stage in the series. It belongs to that 
late period when the reason for the " temporary king " has been 
forgotten, and the king wishes to resume his place as receiver of the 
first fruits. The erection of a royal umbrella of straw is in this case, 
as in the case of the " temporary king ", a symbol of his being Lord 
of the Kice. 

(6) The offering of rice-gruel to the monks is merely the addition 
of latter-day pious Buddhist kings. It cannot be considered as a 
sacrament of first fruits. 

The Brahmanical Sacrifice of the First Fruits evidently spread 
from India to all the countries of Indo-China. In Burma it was 
known as the Mahd-peinne Pwedaw, and the offerings from the king's 
hands were made to the Maha-peinne Nat at the Arakan Pagoda, 
Amarapura. 2 In Cambodia the ceremony, substantially the same as 
that of Siam, and from which the latter was probably derived, has 
been retained until modern times. It was mentioned by Cheou 
Ta-kouan in the thirteenth century in the words " after the rice 
harvest they burn rice in honour of Buddha ", and, in its modern 
form, it has been fully described by Leclere. 3 It is called the Thvoeu- 
bon Sdach Mtakh, the Sdach Meakh or King of the Month of Magha, 
being of course the " temporary king " who officiates on this occasion. 
But the competition between the representatives of Indra and Brahma 
is not mentioned, having evidently disappeared in the course of time. 
On the other hand, the Ceremony of Conveying home the Padi, which 
is also not mentioned, probably did not occur in Cambodia, and was 
a late Siamese modification. 

1 tfatapatha Brahmatia, ii, 4, 3, 4, and 5. 2 ERE. art. " Burma ". 

3 L., pp. 292 sqq. 


Dhdnya-daha was .naturally a ceremony in which the people 
took great interest, since it was necessary that it should be performed 
before they themselves could enjoy the fruits of their labours. It was, 
indeed, not only a royal ceremony, but was also a festival of the 
people, being celebrated on a limited scale in every town and village. 
And though the royal ceremony has long since ceased to exist, the 
harvest operations are still accompanied by oblations to the gods in 
rural districts. There is also much rejoicing, and a popular pastime 
at this season is known as lln blen, or the singing of rhymes connected 
with harvest and love-making. I have myself witnessed this on 
one occasion, but a full description of it has been published by H.H. 
Prince Bidyalankarana. 1 

Since the popular harvest celebrations still retain such a hold over 
the people it seems probable that a revival of the ancient royal 
ceremony might be beneficial, as it would give official recognition to 
the present rural customs, and afford a stimulus to the people to work 
harder for the production of a satisfactory rice crop. 

2. Bidhi Sarada? 

Until a few decades ago a festival known as Bidhi Sarada, which 
simply means the Feasting Ceremony, took place annually, from the 
last day of the tenth month (Bhadrapada) until the second day of 
Asvina. It was revived by the present King in 1928, and again in 
1930. As the ceremony took place, in accordance with ancient 
tradition, privately within the palace grounds, there was no chance 
of its awakening any interest amongst the general public, who have 
completely forgotten that there was once a popular form of the 

Sarada is a festival which completely lost its original significance 
during the course of the centuries, and one has to dig deeply in order 
to unearth that early meaning. Gerini 3 is, so far as I am aware, the 
only European author who mentions the ceremony, and he sums it 
up in few words as a half-year (autumnal) festival, originally Saivic, 
now an occasion for merit-making ; which is perfectly true as far as 
it goes, but it does not take us very far. King Kama V, in his book, 
recognizes from the account of Nan Nabamasa that in early times the 
festival was entirely Brahmanic, consisting of the preparation of 
special food on which the Brahmans feasted and some of which was 
offered to the gods and manes. In later times the Brahmans took 

1 JS8. xx, pp. 101 sqq., " The Pastime of Rhyme Making and Singing in Rural 

a Sources : BRB., pp. 599 sqq. ; NN., pp. 89 sqq. Ge. (2). 


little part, and the special food was presented to the monks as an act 
of royal merit-making, in accordance with Buddhist ideas; but 
the manes were not entirely forgotten, although not taken very 
seriously. King Kama V, therefore, supposed that the original rites 
were Brahmanic, and corresponded to the Hindu srdddhas. 

In Cambodia there takes place a Buddhist festival of merit-making 
at the same time of year, though with rather more attention to the 
deceased ancestors than was evident in Siam. It is known as the 
Thvoeu-bon-kant Boent, which Leclere 1 translates as u Fete des morts ". 
It appears to me that both King Kama V and Leclere have missed 
the point ; and I take the somewhat bold step of attempting to show 
that this festival is not primarily a Feast of the Dead, but should be 
correctly classified as a Festival of First Fruits. In Siam, at least, 
it does not appear that there was any festival specially dedicated to 
deceased ancestors, and Gerini has remarked 2 that at the beginning 
of every domestic ceremony oblations, similar to those of the Hindu 
srdddhas, are offered to the gods and pitris. In other words, the 
spirits of the dead are only remembered when something is required 
from them, i.e. their assistance in carrying out a ceremony, or (at 
New Year) their protection, or at least non-interference, during the 
coming year. I shall endeavour to show that Sdrada was formerly 
a Festival of First Fruits. 

As performed during the Ayudhya and Bangkok periods, the 
ceremonies are as follows : For the three days during which the 
festival lasts, monks offer special prayers in the royal monasteries 
for the welfare of the kingdom, and especially for seasonable rain during 
the time that it is required for the welfare of the growing rice? There is 
also a pavilion erected in the palace grounds where the Brahmans 
make offerings to the Hindu deities. On the first day, within the 
Grand Palace enclosure, the preparation of a special confection takes 
place, which rite forms the most striking feature of the festival. The 
process is known as kvan khau dibya, literally " mixing heavenly rice ", 
i.e. the food of the gods, which is significant. For this purpose eight 
of the usual ceremonial pavilions, with curtained roofs each supported 
on four posts, are erected in the palace grounds. Each pavilion is 
surrounded by a rajavdt fence decorated with paper umbrellas, and 
intended to ward off evil influences (PL XXXII). The ingredients used in 
making the confection, after having been prepared elsewhere, are brought 
to the pavilions and the sacred sincana thread is passed round them. 
They are then poured into eight large pans about a metre in diameter, 

1 L., chap. x. 2 Ge. (1), pp. 40, 41. 3 BRB., p. 629. 


* 6 Mix r MO 


2 S3. 


nfffroff Time* /*/<"**, Lt<l. 



and a third of a metre in depth, one being placed on each dais. The 
ingredients are more than sixty in number, and include the various 
kinds of rice and other grain grown in the country, together with fruit 
juices, sugar, milk, butter, and water. As these ingredients have 
already been prepared, all that requires to be done during the actual 
ceremony is to stir them together. The result is something like 

The stirring of the confection is the duty of thirty-two young 
ladies of royal degree, preferably of the rank of Hmom Cau, but in 
the event of these not being available, they may be chosen from among 
those of the rank of Hmom Raja Varna or Hmom Hlvan. They are 
attired in ancient Siamese style and also have the sacred thread passed 
round their heads. It is not always easy to find suitable young ladies, 
because it is essential that they should be very young, and that they 
should be virgins. The latter regulation probably had some earlier 
Hindu or pre-Hindu significance, but it is now explained on Buddhist 
lines, the virgins corresponding to the virgin Sujata, who offered the 
Buddha a dish of milk rice, in commemoration of which event the 
Siamese have a special image of the Buddha in the attitude of receiving 
the dish. 1 But the event in the life of Buddha took place in the 
sixth month (Vaisakha). 

At the four corners of the raised wooden frame into which the metal 
pan is fitted on the dais there is an image of a devatd (PI. XXXIII). To 
these figures, previous to the commencement of the stirring, offerings of 
candles and flowers are made. It is not known for certain whom 
they are intended to represent, but the Siamese authorities suppose 
that they are the gru or spiritual professors who preside over the 
ceremony. Proximately, that is probably what they are, but I 
suggest that this is only the Hindu explanation borrowed by Buddhism. 
I think that they are the oldest feature in the ceremony, that they 
take us back to a time before Hinduism and Buddhism existed, and 
that they are in fact Spirits of the Corn. 

A chapter of monks is invited to the ceremony, and when all is 
ready the King arrives and a proclamation is read to the assembly 
to the effect that, whereas the King has deemed it expedient to 
maintain (or revive) the ancient ceremony, it behoves all those taking 
part in it to pay attention to their allotted tasks in the spirit of 
kindness and charity. The proclamation ends with a pious wish that 
faith in the Buddha, the Law, and the Order may bring health and 
happiness to the King and prosperity to the country. The monks, 
holding one end of the sacred sincana thread, recite passages from 
1 J88., vol. x, pt. 2, Fig. 5. 


the sacred books, bless the King, and then retire. The King then 
sprinkles the virgins with consecrated water, after which they are 
conducted to their appointed stations, four to each gf the eight pans. 

As the stirring with long wooden ladles proceeds, the work becomes 
harder as the mixture thickens. The King then takes his departure, 
and the maidens hand their work over to strong men, and are later 
rewarded with some of the confection. On the evening of the day 
on which the khau dibya is made, some of it is partaken of by the 
King, and also by members of the Royal Family and high officials. 
But by far the most important part of the proceedings is the presenta- 
tion every morning of the confection to the monks who have officiated 
at the special services in the royal temples; as well as the chapter 
who had recited scriptural passages at the stirring ceremony. 

The offering of khau dibya to the pitris and to the grus is, as already 
stated, no longer taken very seriously, but, at least until the modern 
revivals, it was always the custom to expose some of the food on tables, 
especially at cross-roads. The grus are deceased spiritual professors, 
and the pitris are, of course, the ancestors. These offerings are the 
same as the Hindu srdddhas, and the food thus offered is called khau 
pinda. But the Siamese do not distinguish between the Hindu 
ekoddishta-srdddha offerings to the pretas, i.e. the spirits of those who 
have recently died and are wandering as ghosts, and the sapindi- 
karana offerings due to those who have escaped from that stage and 
joined the company of the " fathers ". 1 The Siamese pinda offerings 
are made indiscriminately to all spirits of the dead. Their idea of the 
preta differs somewhat from that of the ancient Indians : 

" It is a giant among phi, varying in height from ten to sixteen 
metres. It is the ghost of one who was an evil doer when alive. Its 
mouth is exceedingly small, even as the eye of a needle, so that it 
can never satisfy its hunger. The consequence is that its appearance 
is that of a skeleton. It cannot speak, but can make a noise like a 
whistle. There is one such phi, which is said to have been seen by 
many people, that appears in the Chinese graveyard on the Windmill 
Road [Bangkok]." 2 

But this loss of the original significance of the preta is not 
exclusively Siamese ; it is common to later times in India. 
The ceremonies described above may be analysed as follows : 

(1) The TMu dibya is made of every available product of the soil, 
together with milk and butter, the latter used in most Hindu oblations. 

(2) The devatd figures which preside over the stirring are, I think, 

1 Barnett, Antiquities of India, p. 149. 2 JSS., vol. iv, part ii, p. 22. 


to be regarded as Descended from the Spirits of the Corn which at 
one time animated the confection with their vitality and were eaten 
sacramentally. Jn the course of the corresponding Cambodian 
ceremony, in some parts of the country the monks make images of 
the Buddha out of the rice presented to them mixed with a resinous 
substance. This seems very probably to be a relic of " eating 
the god". 

(3) The virgins, as stated above, no doubt have an earlier 
significance than that attributed to them by Buddhism. There is a 
widespread connection between virginity and the fertility of cattle 
and plants, e.g. in the rites of the Roman Vestel Virgins who, like 
the Siamese maidens, were princesses. 1 Possibly the Siamese virgins 
taking part in this ceremony were originally goddesses of fertility. 
The rite of preparation by virgins does not occur in the Cambodian 
ceremony, according to Leclcre, 2 where the royal ceremony consists 
only of the Brahmans offering oblations to the gods and pitris. Nor 
can I find anything to compare with it elsewhere. Possibly we have 
here the survival of an extremely ancient fertility rite on to which 
Hinduism, and later, Buddhism, have been grafted. 

(4) Some of the confection is offered (i) to the King (god) ; (ii) to 
the Royal Family and officials (lesser gods) ; (iii) to the spirits of the 
dead ; and (iv) to the monks. The latter, although of course so 
important in the modern aspect of the ceremony as a Buddhist 
merit-making festival, may be disregarded here, and the offering 
to nobles and officials is equally a late addition. What is of importance 
historically is the offering of the khau dibya to the King and to the 
pitris, which are exactly the classes of beings to which Frazer has 
shown that offerings of first fruits are made. 

I think that the above evidence is sufficient for us to conclude 
that the Bidki Sdrada was once a Festival of First Fruits. Moreover, 
we can distinguish several strata in the development of the festival. 
We get a glimpse of what was perhaps an early rite of partaking of 
the Spirit of the Corn sacramentally, which possibly belongs to the 
early stock of pre-Hindu Indo-Chinese culture; and we see this 
developing into a Brahmanic sacrifice of the first fruits to the gods, 
the king, and the pitris. But now all this has been much obscured by 
Buddhist merit-making, and the Brahmans take only a minor part 
in the ceremony. 

The earlier stages in this evolution are in accordance with what is 
found elsewhere ; Frazer has shown that with a number of peoples 

1 OB. ii, pp. 228-9. a L., loc. cit. 


" the sacrament of first-fruits is combined with a sacrifice or 
presentation of them to gods or spirits, and in course of time 
the sacrifice of first-fruits tends to throw the sacrament into the 
shade, if not to supersede it "- 1 

This is exactly what has happened in Siam and Cambodia, with 
the addition of a still later stage in which either ancestor worship 
(Cambodia) or Buddhist merit-making (Siam) has caused the original 
significance to be forgotten. 

It remains to find a satisfactory answer to the question : " Why 
has this seemingly important festival thus degenerated ? ", and I 
think that in tracing the ceremony back to India a satisfactory answer 
can be obtained. 

Amongst the various Festivals of the First Fruits that are to be 
observed in modern times in different parts of India, the following 
has much in common with Sarada : 

" In some parts of Northern India, the festival of the new crop 
is known as Navan, that is, ' new grain '. When the crop is ripe, the 
owner takes the omens, goes to the field, plucks five or six ears of 
barley in the spring crop and one of the millets in the autumn harvest. 
This is brought home, parched, and mixed with coarse sugar, butter, 
and curds. Some of it is thrown on the fire in the name of the village 
gods and deceased ancestors ; the rest is eaten by the family." a 

If this is the same as the MaJid-Jiavami, described by Dubois 3 as a 
feast specially dedicated to ancestors, it took place at the new moon 
of October, i.e. approximately at the same time as does the Siamese 

Turning now to Vedic times I think we can find the common origin 
of these ceremonies in the Sdkamedha offerings. Their performance 
required two days : firstly, offerings were made to the gods ; then 

" in the afternoon takes place the Mahapitriyagna, or (Great) 
sacrifice to the Manes (performed on a special altar and fireplace, 
south of the Dakshinagni) ; which is succeeded by the Traiyambaka- 
homa, or offering to the Rudra Tryambaka, performed on a cross-way 
somewhere north of the sacrificial ground." 4 

The Sakamedha was a seasonal liturgy inaugurating the beginning 
of autumn ; that and the fact that it included a special offering to 
the Manes make me think that it is the prototype of the Siamese 
Sarada. True, it was not specially regarded as an offering of first 
fruits. The latter was more definitely connected with the Agrayaneshti 
which I have identified with the Siamese Dhdnya-daha. But, as Dr. 
Barnett has pointed out, 5 there are various Agrayana feasts, in which 

1 OB. viii, p. 86. 2 OB. viii, p. 56. 8 D. t p. 569. 

4 atapatha Brahmana in SEE. xii, p. 408, note 1. 5 Antiquities of India, p. 160. 


the rites varied, namely, of rice in the autumn, barley in spring, millet 
in the autumn, or rainy season, and bamboo-seed in summer. It 
seems probable -that the Sdkamedha was an autumnal Agrayana 

This seems to suggest a reason why the original meaning of the 
Sdrada was lost in Siam and Cambodia. In these countries there is 
but one harvest worthy of the name, and that is the rice harvest which 
was celebrated by the Dhdnya-daha. Thus, while Indian colonists 
brought with them their autumnal festival of the first fruits, and 
perhaps sought to graft it on to some indigenous sacrament of the 
first fruits transposed from another time of year, in an effort to keep 
up the customs of their fatherland, the endeavour was doomed to 
failure, because this was not the rice harvest season in Siam. 



1. The Reception of the Gods and the Swinging Proper. 

The important ceremony of Triyambavay Trigavdy, popularly 
known as Lo Jin Ja (" pulling the swing ") is one of the most interesting 
as well as one of the most difficult to understand of all Siamese State 
Ceremonies. Not only is it of great historical interest, but it also 
retains considerable sociological value, but the latter is due mainly 
to the pageantry that accompanies it rather than to the ceremony 
itself. Almost all European writers of the Bangkok period have a 
good deal to say about this ceremony, which is not surprising, con- 
sidering its spectacular nature, but little that is of any value for a 
serious inquiry. But it is remarkable that, so far as I know, none of 
the seventeenth century European writers mention this ceremony, 
which we know from Siamese sources was practised in the Ayudhya 
period. In this section I shall deal with the Swinging Proper and 
the accompanying Reception of the Gods, while in the following section 
I shall make a thorough study of the little known rites performed by 
the Brahmans in their temples daring the fifteen days of the gods' 
supposed stay on earth. 

The Swinging Festival was formerly performed in the first lunar 
month, but was later changed to the second month. It was not only 
an important State Ceremony in Bangkok and in the former capitals, 
Ayudhya and Sukhodaya, but was practised in the other chief cities 
of the realm in ancient times. At Nagara !ri Dharmaraja the Swing 
still stands, but there is no longer a State Ceremony there. 

According to the common Siamese belief, the purpose of the 
Triyambavay Tripavdy is as follows : Once a year the god iva comes 
down to visit this world and stays here for ten days. He used to 
arrive on the seventh day of the waxing moon in the first month and 
depart on the first day of the waning moon. But it was not difficult 
to postpone the date of his arrival until the second month ; for, as 
King Kama V remarks, the Brahmans, like the Pope, hold that they 
keep the keys of Heaven and, of course, Siva could not come down 
till they had opened the door for him. Now, according to Siamese 

1 Sources : BRB. t pp. 77 sqq. ; NN., p. 70 ; KM. ; HV. ; and personal observa- 
tion, to which I devoted considerable time, and for which I enjoyed special opportunities 
in the case of this ceremony. 



[To /rtf-c pnfff 


notions, Siva is a jovial god who likes to be amused ; so the swinging 
and the acrobatic feats which accompany the procession are devised 
for his entertainment. On the contrary, Visnu, who arrives on the 
day Siva leaves, and stays only five days, is supposed by the Siamese 
to be of a quiet and retiring disposition. Accordingly, he is honoured 
only by the rites performed nightly by the Brahmans in the temple 
dedicated to him. It is strange that the Siamese conception of the 
characters of the two high gods is exactly the reverse of that held 
in India. 

Siva is received with great eclat. Divine beings like the Sun, the 
Moon, the Earth, and the Ganges assemble together and wait upon 
him. These lesser gods are represented by the carved panels which 
the Brahmans fix in front of the pavilions from which Siva will watch 
the swinging. 

For this ceremony the King appoints a nobleman to impersonate 
Siva, and during the three days that the festival lasts this noble 
used to have almost unlimited powers and rights over certain of the 
State revenues. He was, in fact, a " temporary king " or " temporary 
god " the two terms being almost synonymous in Siam and this 
institution will be dealt with fully in Chapter XXII. It appears 
from the short account of Nan Nabamasa (who mentions the swinging, 
sprinkling of water, and circular dances) that during the Sukhodaya 
period the King was present at the ceremony, but during the Ayudhya 
period the King remained in his palace on these occasions. The 
KM. makes much of a ceremonial bath which the King took on the 
occasion of the Swinging Festival, and this is also mentioned by 
Khun Hlvan Ha Vat, but as there is no known instance of this having 
actually taken place, King Kama V thinks that it probably refers 
to the time of King Narayana, who is known to have favoured 
Brahmanism more than Buddhism, and probably wished to consider 
himself a Hindu on this occasion. 

During the Ayudhya period (as mentioned by Khun Hlvan Ha 
Vat) and until the third reign of the present dynasty, it was only 
CUu Bmhyd Ealadeba (Minister of Agriculture) who impersonated 
Siva, but King Rama IV, thinking that it was too much for this 
official to be expected to arrange for two great State Ceremonies every 
year, inaugurated the custom, which has been followed ever since, of 
appointing a different brahyd of golden bowl rank to preside over 
the Swinging each year. 

On the seventh day of the waning moon, in the morning, the 
procession of Siva proceeds from the Buddhist temple of Vat Raja- 
purana, following the city wall, to the Swing. The god is supposed 


to have just arrived in this world. He wear>3 a tall pointed hat 
representing a crown, a tunic, and long robe similar to that worn 
by the King on State occasions, and a pha~nun* of brocade. The 
mode of wearing the latter is called pdv Jchun (" slave of the king "), 
one side of the cloth being allowed to hang loose in front, i.e. only 
one side is tucked up behind and not both, as in the common practice. 
He is carried on a palanquin, accompanied by a royal umbrella, a 
sunshade, and several processional umbrellas, with a detachment of 
" drummers of victory ", and pages bearing his insignia (PI. XXXV). 

The procession is made up differently each year. There are always 
a number of acrobats and persons dressed as sprites from celestial 
spheres, and sometimes Indra mounted on Airavata ; while nowadays 
it has become the fashion to add a long and incongruous array repre- 
senting the department or industry with which the brahyd is associated 
in ordinary life. In 1929 the procession was illustrative of the 
activities of the Ministry of War, with aeroplanes and the newly- 
purchased tanks ; while in 1930, the brahyd being a Chinese gentleman 
connected with commerce, there were model rice-mills on wheels, 
advertisements for certain makes of motor-car tyres, and walking 
bottles of whiskey in fact, most Chinese firms took the opportunity 
to advertise their wares. The occasion was spoken of by the Siamese 
with pride as being a Siamese Lord Mayor's Show, and I noticed that, 
while there was little interest in the Swinging, which means absolutely 
nothing to the modern Siamese, vast crowds lined the route of the 
procession, which alone appears to be of any sociological value. But, 
however much one may regret these innovations, it must be said 
that to this " selling campaign " we owe the preservation of the 
Swinging Festival, which had almost reached the stage at which lack 
of interest and loss of significance are followed by abolition. 1 

The Swing is an enormous permanent erection some eighty feet 
high, which used to stand on a grassy plot in front of the Brahman 
temples, but now stands in the centre of a paved open space about 
a hundred yards from them. It consists of a pair of great red-painted 
teak pillars, like ship's masts, which slope slightly inwards, and are 
joined at the top by carved cross-pieces (PL XXXIV). On the occasion of 
the festival a plank is suspended from the lower cross-piece by means of 
ropes, and the central part of the plaza, around the Swing, is enclosed 
by a rdjavdt fence. Before the procession arrives, the Brahmans 
carry out a swing-seat from their temple, and are supposed to hang 
it up ; but, when the brahyd arrives, the plank is taken back into 

1 I am informed on high authority that not long before this occasion the question 
of abolition was actually considered by the Supreme Council of State. 


t i 








the temple and another plank which has already been fastened to 
the swing-posts is let down, and it is supposed to be the same one as 
that which has been taken back into the temple. The reason for 
this is obscure, but it may be that it is to avert some evil omen. 

On arrival, Siva alights in the north-east corner of the plaza at 
a thatched hut or said, called the mdnab or malak. He is then led 
to the furthest west of three pavilions (called jamram) of bamboo poles 
and white cloth which have been erected along the northern side of the 
plaza. In the middle of this pavilion there is a bamboo rail, covered 
with white cloth, for sitting on, and another one to lean against. 
The brahyd sits on the rail. He crosses his left foot over his right knee 
and plants his right foot on the floor (PL XXXVI). Khun Hlvan Ha 
Vat mentions this, and states that if the brahyd were to allow both 
feet to touch the ground his property would be confiscated. The 
attitude may represent some Yoga discipline of ancient India. Four 
Brahman s stand oh his right, two officials of the Ministry of War 
and two officials of the Ministry of the Interior of the rank of hlvan 
stand on his left, while two conch blowers stand in front. As soon 
as he has arrived at the jamram he sends joss-sticks and candles to be 
offered in worship in the Buddhist temple (Vat Sudasana) opposite ; 
and sometimes he himself goes to worship at the temple, drums of 
victory being beaten while he enters and leaves. This feature is, 
of course, a comparatively late Buddhist addition. 

When Siva has taken up his position the swinging begins. There 
are three sets of swingers (ndrivdn), with four men to each set. Their 
peculiar head-dress shows that they are supposed to be ndgas. For 
each set of swingers a reward is offered in a purse tied to the top of 
a slender bamboo pole erected some distance to the west of the Swing 
(PI. XXXIV). In the first instance the purse contains twelve ticals, in 
the second ten, and in the third eight. When the swingers have climbed 
into the swing-seat they first do homage to Siva, and then remain seated 
while the cradle gathers momentum as the result of a man pulling 
on a dependent rope. Then the man nearest to the purse gets on his 
feet, throws off his hat, and endeavours to snatch the purse with his 
teeth, while the man in the rear steers the cradle towards the pole. 
Several feints are made (evidently with the object of amusing the god 
or the crowd) before the purse is seized. Success is greeted with 
applause, while any untoward accident is regarded as a bad omen. 
At the conclusion of each successful effort gongs are sounded and 
conches blown, and all the four swingers stand up and violently agitate 
the swing-seat by pulling the ropes, apparently in order to bring 
it to rest as rapidly as possible. They then once more pay homage 


to Siva with joined palms and descend to the ground. After all 
three sets have performed their task, the swinging for the day is 
finished, and Siva mounts his palanquin and is carried off in procession. 

Next day there are only the Brahmanic rites in the temple, but 
on the day after that the swinging is again performed, but this time 
in the evening and with several additional features. The procession 
again sets out from Vat Rajapurana and wends its way to the scene 
of the swinging, but on this occasion the brdhyd does not stop at the 
manab, but goes straight to the western jamram, where he takes 
his seat and the swinging is carried out three times by the three 
sets of swingers as on the previous occasion, and they are rewarded 
with the same amounts of money. After the swinging is over, all the 
swingers bring a big brass basin, called Man sdgara, full of water, and 
set it before the jamram in which Siva is seated. They then perform 
a circular dance, called senah, of three circuits around the basin, each 
naga swinging a buffalo horn as he dances (PL XXXVII). Before the 
last circuit they run towards the basin and fill their horns with water, 
and after the completion of the last circuit they scatter the water from 
the horns over each other. 1 Siva then rises and goes to the second 
jamram, and afterwards to the third. Each time the swingers follow 
him with their basin, dance the senan, and throw water over each 
other. Then the bratiyd mounts his palanquin and is carried in 
procession back to Vat Rajapurana. 

It is the custom for the King to grant the brdhyd forty ticals for 
presiding over the ceremony, and the brdhyd himself presents to those 
who march in line with him (corresponding to aides-de-camp), four 
ticals each ; the leaders of the procession one or two ticals each ; 
those next to the leaders fifty satangs each ; and all the others 
twenty-five satangs each. If the procession is big he must spend a 
large sum in feeding the men and giving them presents. Besides 
which, he must spend a little more in providing special costumes for 
his followers. All this, however, only applies to the " royal party " 
and the accompanying sprites and jugglers, not, of course, to the 
various elements which make up the enormous procession of this 
Siamese " Lord Mayor's Show ". 

It was King Rama IV who first broke away from the old custom 
of remaining in his palace during the festival. He took great interest 
in the ceremonies and, following his usual custom, added Buddhist 
modifications to what was before a purely Hindu observance. In 
accordance with his idea that all State Ceremonies should conform 

1 The swingers do not use their hats as scoops, nor do they scatter the water over 
the crowd, as inaccurately stated by Graham in Siam, ii, p. 269. 


THK C'lRcujbAK DAN CMS OF THK ** *V.-I^M*s *\ 

f ?'i /fit'** 1 pny*.' "4* 


/Vfo/o; Kungknk Tint?* I 'rest, Ud, 



to Buddhism, cocoa-nuts, bananas, and sugar-cane were placed before 
the Emerald Buddha, and there was a service in which pop-corn was 
offered to the Buddha, in imitation of the offerings of the Brahmans 
in their temple. Buddhist texts were also recited for three days, and 
on the fifth of the waning moon food was offered to the monks who 
had officiated. These Buddhist observances thus became a preliminary 
to the Hindu festival. 

The custom of the King being present as a spectator was also first 
introduced by King Kama IV, and nowadays the King usually watches 
the ceremonies. This expression of the royal interest is much 
appreciated by the people, and especially acts as a stimulus to those 
who organize the procession. This comparatively recent innovation 
necessitated certain modifications in the programme. The King usually 
watches the swinging from the stone said on the wall of the Buddhist 
monastery, Vat Sudasana, situated on the south of the plaza. The 
procession of Siva is held up en route until it is ascertained that the 
King has arrived at the Vat. Then the mock " royal party " files 
before the said, the bratyd walking, accompanied by his insignia 
bearers, he having alighted from his palanquin some distance away. 
Having arrived before the sold he kneels on a mat and pays homage to 
the King in the usual way (PI. XXXVIII). He then rises and proceeds 
to ihejamram. It used to be the custom for the King to present to the 
brahyd, at the time of the homage, 200 Mlpavrksa fruits, presumably 
containing coins to the value of forty ticals, the amount of the 
brahyd's reward for his services. 

Leaving the question of the " temporary king " for later considera- 
tion, I shall here only attempt to trace the origin of the Swinging 
Ceremony itself. As with many other Siamese festivals it is, I think, 
quite clear that we have not to deal with one ceremony, but a whole 
series of ceremonies superimposed on one another. After much thought 
on this subject, I feel that, while it is not difficult to point to the 
origin of the Swinging, it is almost a superhuman task to endeavour 
to trace the misunderstandings and interpolations of succeeding 
ages. This is, of course, quite the opposite of the accepted view on 
the matter in Siam, where, the early significance of the swinging having 
been completely forgotten and obscured by later accretions, the latter 
are regarded as affording the true interpretation. I think that my 
article on the " Origin of the Swinging Festival " l was the first 
occasion on which the theory that the Swinging was originally a solar 
ceremony has been elaborated, although Gerini 2 had suggested as 

1 Bangkok Times, 27th Dec., 1930. * Ge. (2.) 


much without, however, bringing forward any evidence from India 
in support of his supposition. Again, although Frazer, in my opinion, 
has failed to interpret the Siamese Swinging Ceremony correctly, he 
has nevertheless collected a great deal of valuable data on the various 
kinds of swinging practised in different parts of the world. 1 He has 
shown that swinging is performed with different objects in view by 
different peoples. If we disregard hook-swinging, which may 
or may not have been originally connected with the sun, there are 
two ceremonies of swinging known in India, and both of these are 
of solar origin : 

" In the Iligveda the sun is called, by a natural metaphor, the 
golden swing in the sky,' and the expression helps us to understand 
a ceremony of Vedic India. A priest sat in a swing and touched with 
the span of his right hand at once the seat of the swing and the ground. 
In doing so he said : ' The great lord has united himself with the great 
lady, the god has united himself with the goddess.' Perhaps he 
meant to indicate in a graphic way that the sun had reached the 
lowest point of its course where it was nearest to the earth." 2 

9 ')' 

That the Siamese Lo Jifi Jd was originally a sun ceremony is 
indicated by the following features : (1) It occurs about the time 
of the winter solstice ; (2) the swinging is performed from east to 
west, that is to say, in the direction of the course of the sun, and I have 
particularly ascertained that the swing-posts are oriented out of the 
plane of the transverse axis of the plaza in the centre of which they 
are situated so that the swinging should be performed exactly from 
east to west ; (3) the circular dances which follow the swinging 
probably symbolize the revolution of the sun and its rebirth on the 
occasion of its return to the northern hemisphere. 

The ceremony was originally a rite of imitative magic, intended 
to coerce the god Siirya into the fulfilment of his functions. It is 
not the up and down motion of the swing which is important, and 
which led Frazer erroneously to conclude that " the higher you 
swing the higher will grow the crops ". It was the to and fro motion 
of the swing which impressed the ancients, as symbolizing the path 
of the sun. 

Turning now to the swinging as still performed in India : 

" About the middle of March the Hindus observe a swinging 
festival in honour of the god Krishna, whose image is placed in the seat 
or cradle of a swing and then, just when the dawn is breaking, rocked 

1 OB. iv, pp. 277 sqq. 

2 OB. iv, p. 279. A confused form of the Vedic ceremony is also described in 
Aitareya-Aranyaka, i, 3 and 4. 


gently to and fro several times. The same ceremony is repeated at 
noon and at sunset." l 

This rite obviously symbolizes the three steps of Visnu, as a mani- 
festation of solar energy, through the seven regions of the universe, 
these steps being explained by the commentators as denoting the 
three places of the sun its rising, culmination, and setting. In this 
connection, therefore, it is interesting to note that there are, before 
the altars of Visnu and Siva in the Bangkok Brahman temples, pairs 
of posts about four feet high, from which on certain occasions are 
suspended small swings on which the Brahmans rock to and fro the 
images of the gods. The original connection with the sun has been 
forgotten, and I understand that the Siamese Brahmans swing the 
effigy of whichever deity they desire to placate at the time. 

I think that the above evidence leaves little room for doubt that 
the Siamese Swinging was originally a sun ceremony ; and it is very 
interesting to find that some of the original features have survived 
from Vedic times in India. 

The most noticeable and perhaps the earliest change that took 
place in the subsequent history of this ceremony was the substitution 
of Siva for Surya. I think that this change can be explained without 
difficulty. Surya was a Yedic god who sank to comparatively low 
estate in Brahmanic times, and, with the growth of Saivism, the 
original meaning of the ceremony was lost, and the Great God naturally 
came to usurp the place of the forgotten sun-god. The Swinging may 
have come to be regarded as symbolizing the functions of Siva as 
Destroyer and Reproducer, and thus it would have retained its magical 
significance although now brought more closely into connection with 
agriculture as one of the many Hindu harvest festivals. As such the 
Siamese Trlyawbavay seems to have certain features in common with 
the Hindu Iloli festival : The licence formerly allowed to the followers 
of Siva remind one of the saturnalia connected with the Holi ; and 
the fact that the whole ceremony is explained by the Siamese as 
having the object of amusing the god Siva who " likes to see swinging " 
may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the Hindu saturnalia. 
Again, it has been suggested that the scattering of water by the 
impersonators of the jiayas, after the swinging, might correspond to 
the throwing of saffron water which is a feature of the Holi : but this 
also lends itself to another interpretation as being a distinct ceremony 
of rain-making, for the powers of the ndgas in this connection are 
well-known. Certainly the fact that the role of Siva was formerly 

1 GB. iv, p. 279. 


performed by the Minister of Agriculture points to a connection with 
a harvest festival. 

B. A. Gupte l has shown that the Holi was originally a harvest 
festival of the wheat-producing tracts of western India connected 
with the spring equinox, and was later followed in rice-producing 
Bengal, where it was celebrated together with the Dola-yatra or 
swinging festival described above. This is interesting as indicating 
that the connection between swinging and harvest probably came into 
being before the arrival of the ceremony in Siam, i.e. it was probably 
never a purely solar ceremony in Siam. According to Dubois 2 the 
Holi (or Pongul) is in some parts of southern India celebrated during 
the winter solstice, 

" the period when the sun, having finished its course towards the 
southern hemisphere, turns to the north again and comes back to 
visit the people of India." 

It seems, therefore, that this part of India retains a clearer recollec- 
tion of the Holi having been connected with a solar ceremony than is 
the case elsewhere, and indicates that the Siamese ceremony has been 
influenced more particularly by the form of the festival known in 
southern India. It is also interesting to note that Dubois mentions 
that the festival was held in connection with the Brahmanical new 
year, MaM-Satikrdnti, and King Rama V states that the Swinging 
Festival was made to coincide with the new year of the Brahmans. 

It has already been mentioned that when the god $iva arrives on 
earth in Bangkok he is accompanied by a number of othor gods repre- 
sented by painted panels and perhaps by the numerous sprites 
impersonated by those who precede the *' royal party " in the pro- 
cession. The Siamese explain their presence on the grounds that 
they have come to help in the entertainment of Siva, but it appears 
to me that we have here an entirely distinct festival of the Reception 
of the Gods, which I have not been able to trace in India, although 
presumably it was derived from that source. In the second part of 
this chapter we shall have more to say concerning the way in which 
these gods are entertained during their stay in Bangkok. 

One more point calls for notice here. According to my theory of 
the Swinging having originally been a rite of imitative magic intended 
to coerce Surya, and later Siva, into the fulfilment of their functions, 
we should expect that the impersonator of the god would have been 
swung in the cradle of the swing. This we have seen was the case in 

1 Hindu Holidays and Ceremonials, Calcutta, 1916, p. 88. 

2 D., p. 572. 


the Vedic ceremony where a Brahman swung himself ; and there is 
little difference between the Brahman swinging himself in Vedic times 
and his swinging the image of a god in modern India and Siam, for, 
in the words of Manu, " ignorant or learned the Brahman is a great 
deity." But the king is also " a great deity in human form ", and it 
therefore seems reasonable to suppose that, at times when the kingship 
was elevated at the expense of the Brahmans, the king at an early 
period, perhaps before the ceremony reached Siam, swung himself 
in imitation of the deity he was held to represent. Later, he was 
replaced by an appointed substitute. It would be interesting to know 
at what period it was that the Brahman, the king, or his substitute 
ceased to swing himself or be swung, and became a mere onlooker. 
It must have been at some time after the original significance of the 
swinging had been lost. And the change probably contributed in no 
small measure to the late idea of the ceremony being intended for the 
entertainment of the god. 

In conclusion, I may say that my suggestion as to the influences 
which have played their parts in the evolution of this ceremony do not 
exhaust the possibilities. Gerini, 1 for example, puts forward what 
appears to me a far-fetched theory to the effect that Triyambavay 
symbolizes the Churning of the Ocean, the swing-posts representing 
Mount Meru and the ropes the serpent esa. This, at best, could be 
but a late interpretation. But I must repeat that in any attempt to 
trace the misunderstandings and interpolations of successive ages 
we are treading on exceedingly unsafe ground, beset with pitfalls. 
For the present I think we must rest content to have established, 
beyond all reasonable doubt, that the Siamese Swinging Festival 
retains features which take us back to Vedic times, and that it was 
in origin a purely solar ceremony. 

2. The Ritual of the Court Brahmans. 

In this section I shall deal in considerable detail with the rites 
which are performed in the Brahman Temple during the fifteen days 
of the gods' supposed sojourn on earth. I lay special stress on this 
section for two reasons : Firstly, because these rites are on very 
similar lines to those which the Brahmans perform in connection 
with the Coronation, 2 the New Year, and the Ploughing, but, whereas 
in these cases the ceremonies are performed within the Grand Palace 
or in special pavilions erected on the Crown Padi Fields where it is 
difficult to obtain facilities for studying them, in the case of the 

1 G. (2). a With the addition of the fire offerings described on p. 72. 


Swinging Festival the rites are performed pubjicly in the Brahman 
Temples where one may observe them with ease and comparative 
comfort. Secondly, there is, so far as I know, n<5 account of these 
rites in any European language, and they are therefore unknown to 
European scholars. I met in Bangkok only one or two Europeans 
who had ever witnessed these ceremonies ; in fact, very few even 
knew that there were such ceremonies. With the Siamese I found 
only utter indifference. The small temples were never uncomfortably 
crowded ; and those who were present cared nothing for the rites, 
which were meaningless to them. Apart from a few superstitious old 
people desirous of obtaining some of the consecrated water, they 
were merely the poor dwellers in the vicinity who waited patiently 
each evening for the food, which, after having been offered to the 
gods, was distributed to those present. Broadly speaking, it was 
quite clear that had there been no food distribution there would have 
been no congregation. But this is not in itself a sign of decadence, 
for Hindu pujd differs essentially from Buddhist and Christian worship 
in that the masses of the people can take little or no part in the services. 
The activities of the Court Brahmans do not, and never did, directly 
concern the common people. Their ceremonies are royal ceremonies, 
maintained by the King's desire. 

I spent several evenings in the Brahman Temples during the 
Swinging Festival of 1930-1, and am indebted to the Department 
of Ceremonies (Kram Brah Kaja BidhI) for permission to take flash- 
light photographs of the proceedings. The Head Brahman always 
received me well, and offered me tea and cigars ; but neither he nor 
anyone else could suggest any explanation of the significance of the 
details of the complicated rites. But it is my hope that those scholars 
who have made a special study of similar Hindu pujd in India may 
here find material to interest them. 

On the sixth day of the waxing moon of the second month the 
Brahmans gather together, take a purificatory bath and " tie the 
vow " (plmk brat), that is to say, each ties a string round one of his 
arms. From that day until the period of their vows has expired 
they must live on a vegetarian diet and live apart from their wives. 
The Brah Mahd Raja Gru, who presides over the rites, must observe 
the vows for fifteen days, and live within the iva temple. The others 
keep the vows for three days from the seventh of the waxing moon. 

On the seventh day of the waxing moon, at dawn, the Brah 
Mahd Raja Gru reads the hymn " Opening of the portals of Kailasa ", 
by way of invitation to the gods to come down. He then goes out to 
receive Siva at the mdnab as has already been described. At night 

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the Brahmans gather in the &va temple, and the Head Priest performs 
the purificatory rites (krahsuddhi atamasuddhl) as follows : He takes 
his seat on a white mat with crossed legs and soles upturned ; he puts 
on the Brahmanical cord (sdnvdla brdhmana) and the finger-ring 
(kau pil) on the first finger of his right hand ; he places flowers on 
the floor at the four cardinal points ; he marks his forehead with the 
paste of sandal-wood and makes unalom signs on various parts of 
his body ; he has a look of great concentration while he fingers the 
beads of his rosary, apparently enumerating the formulae which he is 
reciting mentally ; and lastly he takes up the branched candlestick 
(with seven lighted candles and a flower) in his right hand, and swings 
it to and fro before his face thirty-six times, at the same time ringing 
the bell with his left hand, while the other Brahmans blow the conch 
shells. After a short pause the same process is repeated twice more. 
Having thus been purified, the Brah Mahd Raja Gru proceeds to 
consecrate four other Brahmans who crawl up to him and pay homage 
with joined palms, while he sprinkles their heads with consecrated water. 
They then crawl up to the altar and pay homage before it three times, 
their foreheads touching the ground. On a table before the altar pop- 
corn (kJiau-tok) has already been piled up, with a cocoa-nut on top of the 
heap. Into this cocoa-nut is stuck a candlestick with two lighted candles, 
while on a smaller table in front of the altar is a candlestick with four 
lighted candles and several dishes with flowers. On the large table, on 
either side of the heap of pop-corn, are bananas and other fruits, while 
under the table there is a pile of cocoa-nuts, and sugar-cane is stacked 
along the sides of the temple. The four Brahmans then stand in queue 
before the table and facing the altar, each one holding a plate of 
popcorn. They each recite a different mantra and these four mantras 
are called " Mahaveja-tu'k ", " Korayah-tu'k ", Saravah-ta'k ", 
and ' * Ve j a-tu'k ' ' respectively. They then together recite a mantra called 
11 Loripavay ". These recitations are punctuated by conch blowing 
by the other Brahmans, the conches being blown thirteen times in all, 
the thirteenth blast marking the conclusion of the first part of the 
ceremony. The Brah Mahd Raja Gru then rises and advances to the 
table and faces the altar. He consecrates the offerings of fruit (known 
collectively as ulup or utup) by sprinkling it with consecrated water. 
He then, while standing before the altar, completes the consecration 
by swinging the candlestick and ringing the bell as before, while the 
conches are also sounded. He then reads a passage from one of the 
sacred books and offers flowers in a saucer at the altar. Having done 
this he retires and the candles on the tables are extinguished, and the 
cocoa-nut is removed from the top of the heap of pop-corn. In its place 


four jars of fruit are placed on the pop-corn. The four Brahmans 
who had previously officiated now go up in turn and each takes one 
of the jars of fruit and holds it up, at the same time reciting a short 
text. This process is known as yak ulup (" raising the ulup "), that is 
to say, offering the fruit to the gods. Finally the ulup is distributed 
among those assembled that they may eat it and thus secure good 
luck. This concludes the rites for the day in the Siva temple ; but 
the same proceedings are immediately repeated in the middle temple, 
that of Ganesa. 

On the eighth day of the waxing moon, at the break of dawn, the 
Brah Mahd Raja Gru carries three wooden panels out of the Temple. 
Each is four cubits long and one cubit broad. One of them has the 
figures of the Sun (Brah Adit) and the Moon (Brah Candra) carved 
upon it, another has the figure of the Goddess of Earth (Nan Brah 
Dharani), and the third has the figure of Ganga (Brah Ganga). I have 
inspected these panels when they were in the Brahman Temple, where 
they are usually kept behind the altar of Siva. They are carved in 
Ayudhya style, painted and gilded, and probably date from the first 
reign of the present dynasty. Nan Dharani is the usual female figure 
represented as wringing out water from hor long hair ; Gaiiga is a 
male figure ; and the Sun and Moon are represented as discs beneath 
a gilded tiered umbrella, carved in low relief. These panels, which 
thus represent some of the lesser gods that have come to wait upon 
Siva, are brought to pits which are situated in front of the three 
jamrams and are enclosed within rdjavdt fences. The pits are paved 
with bricks and spread over with darbha grass (hya gd), and each pit 
is supposed to be one cubit broad and four fingers deep. But since 
the enclosures are set up at the side of the hard macadamized road, 
I noticed that nowadays the Brahmans are content to make an 
artificial pit of clay raised on the surface of the road. One of the 
panels is placed in each of the pits, and made to lean against the 
enclosing fences. The figures of the Sun and Moon are placed in the 
eastern pit, that of Nan Dharani in the middle pit, and that of Ganga 
in the western one. They are kept there for three days, and are 
taken back to the temple on the twelfth day of the waxing moon 
at dawn. 1 

It is commonly thought that the lowering of the panels into the 
pits causes the weather to be cold during the days that they remain 
in the pits. But no explanation is offered as to why it should be so. 
As King Kama V remarks in his book : "We only hear the people 

1 The pits surrounded by rajavdt fences are referred to by Graham (Siam, ii, 
p. 268), as sentry boxes in which the Brahmans intone prayers ! 


shout that the boards have been placed in the pits, and so it is very 
cold. Probably they speak without knowing why it should be so, 
and simply because it is fashionable to make a remark like that. For 
it is naturally cold in the second month, and the people begin to 
murmur. Then some old man will observe that it will be colder still 
if the panels are lowered into the pits in the third month. He speaks 
as if it were a sober fact, without knowing that they are not placed 
in the pits in the third month, but during the Tnyambavay, long before 
the third month/' 

The rites already described as taking place in the Siva and Ganesa 
temples are repeated each evening until the first day of the waning 
moon, on which day a much fuller series of rites is performed, because 
it is on this day that ^iva leaves this world and Visnu arrives. At 
dawn the Brahmans gather in the Visnu temple, and the Brah Mahd 
Raja Cru reads the hymn " Opening of the Portals of Kailasa ", as 
an invitation to Visnu to come down. In the evening they again 
gather together in the Visnu temple, and conduct worship along the 
lines of the rites already described as taking place in the other two 

At night, as soon as the moon has risen, there is a procession, 
generally known as the '" Procession of Naresvara ", when Siva leaves 
this world. The procession of Brahmans goes to the Grand Palace, 
where the King presents to them three small images, representing 
Siva, Uma, and Ganesa respectively. At the same time fireworks, 
representing the Pdrijata Tree of Indra's paradise, arc let off oiitside 
the palace wall. It used to be the custom for the kings of the Ayudhya 
period to follow the procession up to the temple, and this custom 
was also practised by King Kama IV. The procession which I witnessed 
on 4th January, 1931, was made up approximately as follows : 

File of lictors bear- Metal Drum File of hctors bear- 

ing lotus-lamps. Jj m h Maha Raja Grii ing lotus-lamps. 

File of red and gold Brahmans blowing flageolets and conches File of red and gold 
drummers. drummers. 

File of umbrellas Palanquin bearing the three small images File of umbrellas 
and sunshades. and a large image of Siva as Nataraja and sunshades. 

Brahmans bearing Palanquin bearing image of Ganea Brahmans bearing 
multiple candle- ' multiple candle- 

sticks, sticks. 

Processional urn- Processional urn- 

brellas and sun- brellas and sun- 

shades, shades. 

When the procession has returned to the Siva temple the ceremony 
proceeds after the following preparations have been made : At the 
eastern end of the temple (i.e. that furthest from the altar) there is 


placed a small low table called the Bhadrapitha, which is adorned 
with little heaps of coloured powder just as is the Bhadrapitha Throne 
used at the Coronation. On another low stand beside it are placed 
a conch shell, a silver water-pot (Jclasa), and four cups of different 
metals, and one of crystal, called collectively pencagarbha, 1 which are 
filled with consecrated water. On the stand are also placed five candle- 
sticks with candles, and a small shrine with pointed prdsdda spire 
beneath which the three small images (each only about two inches high) 
are placed on arrival from the palace. A dish on a tall stand bearing small 
offerings of food rolled in plantain leaves, lighted candles, and incense 
sticks, is also placed near to the Bhadrapitha, and the bell, branched 
candlestick, and other paraphernalia are placed near at hand. Mean- 
while, in the middle of the temple the small swing-posts have been 
decorated with banana leaves, a cradle has been suspended from the 
cross-beam, and on it has been fastened the gilded figure of a swan 
(hansa) with its head facing eastwards (PL XXXIX). On the floor 
before the hansa is placed a stone mortar (sildpat) which is called 
the " mountain" (pdb hot). On the stone mortar there is engraved 
a special yantra diagram, while a metal plate inscribed with another 
yantra is placed in the silver water -pot. 2 

The Brah Malwi Raja Gru takes his seat on the white cloth before 
the Bhadrapitha and the ceremonies begin. He first performs the 
purificatory rites, and the ceremony of ts raising the ulnp " is again 
carried out as already described. But on this occasion the pop-corn 
is reserved for presentation to the King, and is not distributed among 
those present. The High Priest then recites two mantras called 
"Bran Sar " and " Torabat ", pours the water out of the pcnca- 
garbha into the silver water-pot, and offers incense, candles, and flowers 
to the gods. Then he dedicates the conch and water-pot by ringing the 
bell and waving the branched candlestick before them, while conches 
are blown. He reads the texts for bathing the swan, rises from his 
seat, and walks towards the swing. He places his foot upon the stone 
mortar, and pours sacred water from the water-pot on to the swan's 
head, and makes thumb-marks with paste on its neck, while conches 
are blown continuously. He lights a large candle that is fixed upon 
the swan's beak, and then he kneels, rings the bell, and waves the 

1 Gerini in Ge. (1), p. 174, supposes that pcncagarbha means " five receptacles "; 
but Mr. P. S. Sastri of the Royal Institute, Bangkok, is of opinion that Gerini was 
misled by the Siamese spelling of the word which more probably refers to the Indian 
pancha-gavya, i.e. the five products of the cow. The Siamese Brahmans have lost 
the use of pancha-gavya, but retain the use of the five cups which appear to have- 
been formerly connected with it. 

8 See Plate IV. 


[From a 


e Author* 


candlestick before the swan, first with one candle lighted, then with all, 
conches being sounded. He then returns to his seat and reads a text 
inviting &va, Urna, and Ganes*a (Fig. 5). He takes a large bowl of red- 
gold and pours into it the contents of a number of scent bottles brought 
by the onlookers. He takes the three small images from under the 
prdsdda spire, lifting them by means of pieces of cotton fastened to 
them, and places them in the bowl, the scented water reaching up to 
the middle of each image. He then anoints the three images by 
pouring water on them from the conch and from the water-pot, while 
the conches are sounded. He makes a mudrd sign with his hands, 1 
lifts the three images out of the bowl, places them on his head, and then 
carefully sets them upon the Bhadrapitha, after which he reads the 
texts called " Sar hlvan ", " Malai ", and " Sanval ". Then he takes 
the three images from the Bhadrapitha, places them in a smaller 
red-gold bowl filled with rose-petals, and, rising from his seat, walks 
towards the swan. Holding the bowl with the images in his left hand, 
and a large lighted candle in his right hand, he walks three times 
round the swan, pausing each time that he passes the mortar to put 
his foot upon it, which action is each time marked by the blowing of 
conches. The images are then taken from the bowl by two other 
Brahmans, who place them on the swan, and light a number of candles 
on the body of the swan and at the four corners of the swing-cradle. 
The Brah Mahd Raja Gru then rings the bell and waves the 
candles before the swan while conches are sounded. From time to 
time after this the two Brahmans seated near by gently rock the 
swing. The High Priest, having now returned to his seat, proceeds 
to read the texts for offering worship to the swan and to the 
"mountain". He reads the "praise of Kailasa", just as he does 
when the King sits upon the Bhadrapitha Throne during the Corona- 
tion, and also reads the texts for " sending Uma ". He offers Binesa 
Water (ndm binesa), lights eight candles which are adorned with 
flowers and set up towards the eight cardinal points, and goes around 
them reciting " Tro Dvara ". Two Brahmans then recite " Ja Kiom 
Hansa " (lulling the swan ?) just as is done when the royal children 
are placed in the cradle for the first time, and conch shells are blown. 
Then the Brah Mahd Rdja Gru recites " San Sar" (sending news ?), 
" San Brah Pen Cau " (sending the gods), and " Pit Dvara givalai " 
(closing the gates of Kailasa). Meanwhile the scented water in the 
large red-gold bowl, mixed, of course, with the consecrated water 
from the conch and water-pot with which the images had been 

1 Only one mudrd is known to the Siamese Court Brahmans, and this is the only 
occasion on which it is used. 


anointed, is poured back into the scent bottles and returned to the 
owners, who receive the precious liquid with evident satisfaction. 
A Brahman also makes his way amongst the spectators, sprinkling 
the heads of all those present with a little of the sacred mixture. 
This brings the ceremony for the night to a close ; the rites performed 
in the Siva temple after the return of the procession being known 
collectively as Jd Hansa. 

If I be permitted to hazard an explanation of the above complicated 
rites of Jd Hansa, I would suggest that they are expressive of two 
ideas, as follows : (1) Siva, Uma, and Gane^a, on their last night on 
earth, are undergoing a kind of consecration or abhiseka to fit them 
to carry out their duties for the benefit of mankind during the next 
twelve months. Hence the Bhadrapitha throne, the anointment, and 
the recitation of the same mantras that are used at the King's Corona- 
tion. There is nothing remarkable about this if we bear in mind the 
audacity of the Brahmans of Ancient India ; the Brah Mahd Raja 
Gru is simply acting the part of Brihaspati, the purohita of the gods 
(2) The rites connected with the Jiansa are a magical imitation of the 
homeward journey of the gods designed to help them on their way. 
Admittedly the swan is the traditional mount of Brahma, but that is 
a minor modification after a lapse of so many centuries. Besides, 
Brahma is forgotten and a swan is surely a swifter steed than Siva's 
bull or Gamma's rat. The stone mortar is called the " mountain ", 
presumably Mount Kailasa, the home of the Saivic deities. The 
images are placed upon the swan's back, and the swan faces the 
" mountain " and is rocked gently towards it, while the mantras 
" sending the gods " and " closing the door of Kailasa " are recited. 
It seems that one could hardly wish for a clearer example of imitative 
magic. There are other rites which are unexplained, and may relate 
to other ideas ; but my suggestions, which are only tentative, appear 
to afford a satisfactory explanation of the ceremony as a whole. 

On the following morning (second of the waning), the Brah Mahd 
Raja Gru and other Brahmans take the ulup which had been dedicated 
to the gods the night before and present it to the King. It consists 
of two plates of khau man (half-ripe padi, husked and pounded flat), 
tender cocoa-nuts, plantain fruits, sugar-cane, and many kinds of cakes. 

On the first and fifth days of the waning moon, shadow plays 
(hndn) are shown in a shed opposite the Brahman Temple. This 
feature, together with the letting off of fireworks outside the palace, 
was introduced in the reign of King Rama IV, presumably to increase 
the popularity of the ceremony with the people. 

The ceremony of " raising the ulup " continues to be performed 


every evening in the temple of Visnu only, until the fifth day of the 
waning moon, when a procession goes at night to the Grand Palace, 
and a small image of Visnu is carried back to the temple. Then, in 
celebration of that god's return to his celestial abode, the rites are 
carried out in full as on the first of the waning, but this time, of course, 
in the Visnu temple. This concludes the festival of Trlydmbavdy 
Trlgavay, except for a Buddhist modification, introduced by King 
Rama IV, in which a chapter of eleven monks is invited to recite 
Buddhist texts in the Brahman Temple, and is presented with 
food on the following morning. At the same time that the monks are 
being fed, the poor people bring their children to the annual public 
Tonsure Ceremony, performed by the Brahmans free of charge. 


The Ceremony of the First Ploughing, known as Bidhi Carat 
Brah Ndngdla, or popularly as Eek Nd, is entirely Brahmanical, and 
it takes place outside the city in the Crown padi field called Dun 
Jam Poy in the sixth month (Vaisakha). The date fixed for the 
ceremony must be a Sabha tiihi, a Purna rksa, or a Sambhah 
grauhha day, and not a Phi phlia day. In selecting the date 
for the Ceremony it is necessary only to be particular about the above 
factors ; it does not matter if the date be inauspicious for any other 
reason. In the sixth month the Phi phlia days are the 1st, 5th, 7th, 
8th, 9th, 10th, 11 th, and 15th of the waxing moon, and the 1st, 5th, 
6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 13th, and 14th of the waning moon. The Sabha 
tithi days are merely those not included among the Phi phlia 
days. Purna rksa days are the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, llth, 14th, 
17th, 22nd, 24th, and 27th days of the month. The Sambhah grauhha 
days are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. 

On the afternoon of the same day that the Buddhist monks carry 
out the special image of the Buddha in procession in connection with 
the minor degree of the Barnna Sdtra, the Brahmans also carry in 
procession the images of the Hindu gods to the Crown padi fields, 
where they place them on an altar in a ceremonial pavilion, and where 
they perform their rites along the usual lines, as fully described in the 
last chapter. 

For the Ploughing Ceremony it is still the custom for the King to 
appoint a temporary substitute (PI. XL), who in this case is always 
the Minister of Agriculture, the successor of the ancient Baladeba, or 
Head of the Department of Lands. Like the " temporary king " 
who presides over the Swinging (a post also filled by the Baladeba 
until King Kama IV's time) this dignitary has, as will be shown in 
what follows, been shorn of his power, and no longer enjoys the 
perquisites which he used to during the three days of his annual reign. 

On the morning of the day fixed for the Ploughing Ceremony the 
" temporary king " is carried on a palanquin in procession to the 
Crown padi field. This procession consists only of ceremonial drummers , 
processional umbrella-bearers, a bodyguard bearing ancient weapons, 
and pages carrying the insignia of the Minister, there being no pageant 
such as characterizes the procession to the Swing. On arrival at the 

1 Sources : BRB., pp. 395 sqq. ; NN., pp. 78 sq, ; KM . ; HV. 
256 ' 








field, which is protected from the intrusion of evil spirits by rdjavdt 
fences erected at each corner, the presiding official descends from 
his palanquin and .goes to the pavilion of the Brahmans and lights 
incense sticks before the images of the deities. He then selects one 
of three pha-nun offered to him by the Brahmans, and attires himself 
in one of them in the manner known as pdv khun, already mentioned 
in connection with the Swinging. These three pha-nuh are of different 
lengths, and great importance attaches to his choice. Should he 
choose the longest the prognostication is that the rainfall will be 
abundant ; should he choose the shortest there will be too little, while 
his choice of the one of medium length denotes that the rainfall will 
be average. He then takes the gilded handle of the plough, which 
has been wrapped in red cloth by the Brah Mahd Raja Gru, and whips 
up the pair of magnificent oxen caparisoned in harness of red velvet 
and gold thread, while the Brahmans blow the conches. He then 
ploughs three concentric furrows, the Brahmans blowing the conches 
at the conclusion of each circuit. Four dowager ladies of the nobility, 
called nan devi, then outer the field and hand to the Minister two 
silver and two gold rice baskets, containing seed-rice, hallowed by the 
mantras of the Brahmans and also of the Buddhist monks, which he 
scatters as he ploughs three more concentric furrows (PL XLI), while 
an official scatters holy water, an offering to the Goddess of Earth. 
Then the oxen are unyoked and seven vessels are placed before them 
containing respectively padi, Indian corn, beans, sesamum, rice-spirit, 
water, and grass, and whichever commodity the animals choose to 
partake of will be plentiful during the coming year. This ends the 
ceremony, and the " temporary king " then departs in state, but the 
vast concourse of people who have gathered to witness the proceedings, 
many of them having come from up-country, now burst on to the field 
and gather up the hallowed rice grains, which, mixed with their own 
seed-rice, are said to be very efficient fertilizers. Ploughing is also 
carried out simultaneously in two or three provincial centres by a 
local official deputed by the king. 

It had never been the custom during the Bangkok period for the 
King himself to watch the proceedings at the Ploughing Ceremony 
until on 21st April, 1912, King Rama VI witnessed the ceremony, 
and thus abolished what remained of a custom which had grown to 
remarkable proportions during the Ayudhya period. The KM. 
says : 

" Carat Brah Ndngdla takes place in the month of Vaisakha. 
Can Brahyd Cdnda Kumdra [a title of the temporary king] pays 
homage to the king in the hall of worship (hd brah). The king gives 


him the sword of State (brah kharga) and thus gives up his prerogatives 
(dran brah karundlat brah parama deja) : he does not give orders nor 
call for the officers, nor leave the palace (mi tai bc'k luk khun mi tai 
satec ok). As for the Brahyd Cdnda Kumdra, he has a mount for 
getting upon elephant-back, as if he were a king. He proceeds in 
state from the Buddhist temple, and for three days he entertains 
officials and nobles who take part in the procession." Khun Hlvan 
Ha Vat makes mention of the ceremony as follows : " Brah Inda 
Kumdra [temporary king] represents the king and Nan Devi 
impersonates the queen. They go to Tun Kev by boat, both wearing 
crowns. On land they proceed on silver palanquins ; symbols of 
royalty are carried in their procession ; the persons who follow them 
are called " Mahhdtlek " ; and nobles armed with canes walk abreast 
the palanquin and make way. Brah Inda Kumdra yokes the bulls to 
the plough, and Brahyd Baladeba leads them forward [from this it 
appears that the temporary king was not necessarily the Baladeba]. 
Nan Devi carries the basket of padi and sows the seeds. After the 
plough has been driven round thrice the bulls arc unyoked and 
allowed to eat the three kinds of rice, three kinds of pulse, and three 
kinds of grass. Predictions are made according to what the bulls eat." 

It appears from the above that in the Ayudhya period the wife 
of the " temporary king " was also accorded the honour of a 
" temporary queen ", and played the part now filled by the dowager 
ladies. Khun Hlvah Ha Vat makes no mention of the king giving 
up the sword of State, and it may be that this feature had already 
been dropped out in his time. 

In the Ayudhya period, and indeed during the early decades of 
the Bangkok period, it is said that the Baladeba was rewarded with 
the junks that came in during the Ploughing Ceremony just as he was 
with those that came in during the Swinging Ceremony, provided 
that he maintained his proper position with one leg raised during 
the swinging. He also collected the Kdmtdk taxes, as recorded by 
Khun Hlvan Ha Vat, as follows: "During the three days of the 
rite, Brah Inda Kumdra has the right to take for himself all the boats, 
carts, and junks of the traders which come into the kingdom during 
that time. Again, the agents and servants of Brah Inda Kumdra are 
entitled to collect the taxes on markets and ferry boats everywhere. 
They are called Dandy Kdmtdk ". The statement that Brah Inda 
Kumdra was entitled to take the carts and boats that arrived on the 
days of the ceremony seems to mean that he seized all the merchandise 
that came in. But King Rama V states l that in truth it refers only 

1 Loc. cit. 


to the tolls levied on boats and carts, which were assigned to him 
as his reward. He could not have had this income every year, for 
trade was then insignificant, and a junk or caravan of carts could not 
have always arrived during the days of the ceremony. The income 
that he derived regularly, every year, was the daily levy on markets 
and ferry boats which fell due on the days of the ploughing. 

For the Sukhodaya period Lady Nabamasa l supplies us with a 
very valuable account of the Ploughing Ceremony : "In the sixth 
month we have the ceremony of Carat Brah N angola. The Brahmans 
gather together, ' tie the vow/ and take the images of the gods 
to the hall of ceremony in the Dim LaJihdn Hlvan, opposite 
the Han Kliau palace. The king dresses like an Indian (ydn desa) 
and goes in procession on horse-back. The queen, the princes, and 
ladies of the harem who have been chosen by the king follow him 
in their carriages. Ok Na Baladeba dressed as a prince (luJc hlvan) 
conies in procession, the Brahmans walking before him blowing 
conch shells and scattering pop-corn. When he has arrived at the 
shed in the middle of the Lahhdn, the king's bulls [i.e. the sacred bulls] 
are led out and yoked to the golden plough. The Brah Mafia Raja 
Gru gives the plough and goad to Ok Na Baladeba, who pays homage 
to the king and ploughs first. Then Brah Sri Mahosath, father of 
Nan Nabamasa, dressed in white in the manner of the Brahmans, 
ploughs with the silver plough, followed by Brah Vadhaneh SresthI 
dressed as a commoner (yan gahapatl), who ploughs with the plough 
covered with red cloth. The king's astrologers sound the gong of 
victory and play upon musical instruments. The Baladeba and the 
others go around ploughing from left to right. The Brahmans lead 
the plough, blowing conch-shells, scattering pop-corn and flowers, 
and sounding the pandahvah drum. Khun Paripurna Dhanna, the 
superintendent of the king's farms, follows and sows seeds in the 
furrows. The event is celebrated with dancing and acrobatic feats 
all around the place. The bulls are unyoked and given five kinds of 
food to eat, from which the Brahman astrologers declare the omens. 
At the same time the queen asks her maid to set a dish of sweet 
porridge before the king, and the king's servants then distribute 
the porridge among the officials." In the above account the important 
point to note is that in the Sukhodaya period the king retained his 
power in full, was present during the ceremony, and merely deputed 
the Baladeba to plough for him, the other two officials representing 
respectively the Brahmans and the people. 

Ploughing ceremonies are of world- wide distribution, but for our 
1 NN., p. 78. 


purpose it is sufficient to note that in both the* two main centres of 
civilization, i.e. India and China, from which the Siamese ceremony 
might have been derived, there were Ploughing Ceremonies in antiquity. 
At the Court of China a Ploughing Ceremony was instituted about 
5,000 years ago, and until recent times the Emperor ploughed several 
furrows and scattered the seed. The corn grown on the holy field 
was collected and used by the Emperor in certain solemn sacrifices to 
the god Chan Ti and to his own ancestors. In the provinces of China 
the season of ploughing was similarly inaugurated by the provincial 
governors as representatives of the Emperor. 1 In Ancient India we 
have at least two classical examples of a Ploughing Ceremony. In the 
Rdmdyana it is recorded that on such an occasion the child Sita, 
who later married Rama, was found by the officials in a furrow 
ploughed by Janaka, King of Mithila. Again, there is the famous 
instance associated with the miracle of the child Buddha, when lie 
caused the shadow of the jambu-tree to stand still (PL XLII) :-- 

" Now one day the king held the so-called Ploughing Festival. 
On that day they ornament the town like a palace of the gods. All 
the slaves and servants, in new garments and crowned with sweet- 
smelling garlands, assemble in the king's house. For the king's work 
a thousand ploughs are yoked. On this occasion one hundred and 
eight minus one were, with the oxen-reins and cross-bars, ornamented 
with silver. But the plough for the king to use was ornamented with 
red gold ; and so also the horns and reins and goads of the 
oxen. The king leaving his house with a great retinue, took his son 
and went to the spot . . . the raja clad in splendour and attended 
by his ministers, went away to plough. At such a time the king 
takes hold of a golden plough, the attendant ministers ono hundred 
and eight minus one silver ploughs, and the peasants the rest of the 
ploughs. Holding them they plough this way and that way. The 
raja goes from one side to the other, and comes from the other back 
again. On this occasion the king had great success." 2 

In weighing the evidence in favour of a Chinese or of an Indian 
origin of the Siamese Ploughing Ceremony it will be of value first 
to consider the ploughing ceremonies as performed in the neighbouring 
countries, Cambodia and Burma. The ceremony as still performed 
in Cambodia 3 is similar in all but insignificant details to the ceremony 
as performed at Ayudhya, the Okhna PohuUa-tep (Minister of Agri- 
culture) and his wife going in state to the Crown padi field where the 
former ploughs while the king remains within his palace, the ploughing 

1 OB. viii, p. 14 sq. 

2 T. W. Rhys Davids, The Nidana-Katha, or Commentarial Introduction to the 
Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 163. 

3 Lecl&rc, Revue Indochinoise, 15 aout 1904. 


I From painHny by a Situnew artist. 


[To face page QQ, 


being followed by omens drawn from the selection of food made by 
the oxen. Probably at an earlier period the Khmer kings were them- 
selves present at, the ploughing, just as it was at Sukhodaya, and I 
think we need not hesitate to take the step of deducing that when the 
Thai obtained their freedom from the Khmer yoke they adopted the 
Ploughing Ceremony in toto from them. 

Now a study of the Burmese first ploughing ceremony (or Letwin 
Mingala) as performed in the reign of Mindon Min, the last king of 
Burma but one, is by no means fruitless. 1 The most important 
difference between this and the Siamese and Cambodian festivals is 
that in Burma the chief part was performed by the king himself, who 
arrived in procession riding on the white elephant. Not only the king 
ploughed, with a gilded plough, but a long line of ordinary ploughs 
was ready drawn up for the ministers and high officials who also 
ploughed, and were obliged to continue long after the king had ceased. 
No scattering of seed and no omens from the oxen's choice of food 
are mentioned in Shway Yoe's account, and apparently the actual 
ploughing was the main, if not the only, part of the ceremony. Harvey 2 
mentions a Ploughing Ceremony performed by King Bagyidaw 
(1819-37), and also an ancient one dating back to the early Pagan 
period : 

" When Htuntaik, 569 82, a traditional chief of Pagan, was 
performing the rite, the oxen shied at his vestments flapping in the 
wind, and dragged the plough over him so that he died. 3 

The Burmese Ploughing Ceremony probably never influenced the 
Siamese or Cambodian form of the rite ; indeed, it is probably to the 
fact that there was so little cultural contact between Burma and Siam 
that we owe the preservation in Burma of a very ancient form of the 
ceremony which has much in common with the ploughing as performed 
in Ancient India. Thus we see surviving in a State of Indo -China 
down to modern times two features that were common to the ancient 
Indian Ploughing Festival : (1) the king himself guiding the plough, 
and (2) the use of a number of ploughs, and the participation of 
officials in the ploughing. We have seen that at Sukhodaya three 
ploughs were used, and that two of these were guided by the repre- 
sentatives of the Brahman s and of the people respectively, evidently 
a reduction from the grander scale on which the ceremony was carried 
out in Ancient India. And I think we cannot resist the conclusion 
that at an early period the Khmer King himself ploughed in person. 4 

1 Shway Yoc, The Bvrman, chap. xxiv. 

2 History of Burma, pp. 295 and 362. 3 Hmannani, 218. 
4 Or we might have to go further back to DvaravatI or Srivijaya. 


The above evidence, and the fact that from. Sukhodaya onwards 
the ceremony has always been attended and in part performed by 
the Brahmans, leaves little room for doubt that % the ceremony as 
known in Siam during historical times was derived from India ; 
and were it not that we know that there was also a Ploughing Ceremony 
in China, we should hardly be inclined to cast an eye in that direction. 
Yet I think we cannot entirely rule out Chinese influence. The only 
early writer on Siam who attempted to explain the custom wafc La 
Loubere, who evidently believed it to be of Chinese origin. He says : 

"I suspect that this custom of causing the lands to be ploughed 
by the Prince, came from China to Tonquin, and Siam, with the 
Art of Husbandry." l 

And the Jesuit fathers have placed it on record that the kings of 
Tonquin and Cochin-China in the seventeenth century took an active 
part in an annual ploughing ceremony held at their capitals. These 
countries have a purely Chinese civilization, and doubtless received 
the rite from their great neighbour. An important point of resemblance 
between the practice of Siam and China is the simultaneous ploughing 
of provincial governors at the same time that the state ceremony was 
performed in the capital. Thus it is very probable that the early 
Thai of Yunnan came in contact with some such Chinese provincial 
ceremony and carried with them the memory of it when they migrated 
southwards. We may therefore conclude that the early Thai were 
probably in possession of a Chinese form of the Ploughing Ceremony, 
but as they came in contact with the Khmers their early culture 
became almost entirely obscured by superimposed Brahmanism, so 
that the Siamese form of the Ploughing Ceremony, as known in 
historical times, retains perhaps no features which would enable us 
to state definitely that the Thai were in possession of an earlier Chinese 
form of the Ceremony. 

There seems to be no doubt but that ploughing ceremonies, 
wherever performed, had primarily the object of ensuring a plentiful 
crop by means of magic. Frazer 2 compares the ploughing of the 
Karian plain at Eleusis to the little sacred rice-fields on which the 
Kayans of central Borneo inaugurated the various operations of the 
agricultural year by performing them in miniature, and he concludes : 

" All such consecrated enclosures were probably in origin what we 
may call spiritual preserves, that is, patches of ground which men set 
apart for the exclusive use of the corn spirit to console him for the 
depredations they committed on all the rest of his domains." 

1 L. L., p. 20. a GB. viii, pp. 14 and 15. 


That the Siamese t rite has passed beyond this stage is evidenced by 
the fact that the people pick up all the grain and do not allow it to 
germinate on the^ Crown padi field as a reserve for the gods or spirits. 
Nevertheless, the offerings made to the Brahmanic deities in the 
ceremonial pavilion on the field point to some such idea having 
obtained at an earlier time. King Rama V expresses his opinion as 
to the object of the ceremony in the following words : 

" The object of the king himself (or his substitute) ploughing 
first is to set an example to his people and induce them to be 
industrious in cultivating the land." I cannot agree with this; 
for although it no doubt expresses the functional value of the ploughing 
at the time King Rama V wrote and gives his " object " in main- 
taining it, there was undoubtedly some earlier magical significance 
now forgotten and distinct from the functional value. This is 
indicated in both Siam and Cambodia, where it was formerly prohibited 
for the common people to commence to plough their land before the 
ceremony had been carried out, and by our whole theory of the raison 
d'etre of " temporary kings ", as explained in the next chapter. King 
Rama V goes on to explain the subsidiary elements in the Ploughing 
Ceremony as follows : " The ritualistic elements [i.e. the omens drawn 
from the length of the Baladeba's skirt, and from the oxen's choice of 
food, and also the fertilizing value of the hallowed grain] have been 
added to the simple act of ploughing because people are afraid of 
calamities like droughts, floods, and insect pests, and desire to secure 
an abundant harvest. They also need to know of the future before- 
hand, so that they can determine how to remedy what they fear and 
contrive what they desire." Here King Rama V is on firmer ground. 
The Brahmanical soothsaying and the value attached to the hallowed 
grain as a fertilizer, the latter a good example of contagious magic, 
are definitely later accretions, added after the significance of the 
ploughing had been largely forgotten, to strengthen the efficacy of 
the ceremony. And it is to these later rites that is due the sociological 
value of the Ploughing Ceremony in Siam at the present day. The great 
crowd of people, a large proportion of whom are farmers seriously 
interested^ in the proceedings, anxiously study the length of the Bala- 
deba's phd-nun, and the omens declared from the oxen's choice of 
food, and it may be said they are seldom disappointed with the auguries. 1 
The actual ploughing has little or no meaning to them, but these 

1 Hero is the latest example as recorded by the Bangkok Times for 22nd April, 
1931 : " The forecast states that the supply of rice, fish, meat, and fruits will be good, 
while at the beginning and towards the end of the season there will be abundant rainfall 
and during the middle it will be good. The supply of water will be sufficiently good." 


omens usually are such as to have the effect pf quieting their fears 
and of enabling them to go home and start their labours with a 
light heart and every confidence in the future. , Again, it is said 
that inspection of the field after the crowd has dispersed with the 
coveted seed-rice has failed to reward the searcher with a single grain. 
This surely provides a useful index as to the continued sociological 
value of the ceremony. Should the Government ever have any 
intention of abolishing it, I suggest that a suitable time will have 
come when an official inspection of the Crown padi field, on the day 
following the First Ploughing, reveals an appreciable quantity of the 
sacred grain. 



In this chapter an atttmpt will he made to define the functional 
value of the Siamese custom of appointing " Temporary Kings " on 
certain occasions. We have encountered this phenomenon in four 
of the State Ceremonies considered in this book, namely the Ploughing, 
Swinging, Tonsure, and Dhanya-daha. The table on page 267 sums 
up the known data which bear on this problem, and although there 
are gaps and no one ceremony gives us the complete story of the 
rise and fall of the Temporary King, nevertheless, by combining our 
evidence, we are able to trace the evolution of the institution. We 
can also distinguish five stages in this evolution which do not, however, 
bear an exact relationship to the four historical periods under which 
the evidence has been classified on the table. 

These stages are as follows : 

Stage I : The King performed the chief role in the ceremony 

Stage II : The King appointed a substitute to perform his role 
in the ceremony, but was himself present as a spectator. 

Stage III : The substitute became a " Temporary King ", usurping 
the King's power, and enjoying royal privileges, while the 
King practically abdicated for the duration of the ceremony. 

Stage IV : The " Temporary King " still performed the chief role, 
but was shorn of his power and privileges, and the King was 
again present as a spectator. This is a return to Stage II. 

Stage V: The "Temporary King" is abolished, and the King 
resumes his role as the chief personage in the ceremony. This 
is a return to Stage I, but has as yet been reached only in the 
Tonsure and Dhanya-daha Ceremonies. 

Frazer deals with the subject of Temporary Kings in The Golden 
Bough, 1 where he rightly concludes that, 

" The Cambodian and Siamese examples shew clearly that it is 
especially the divine or magical functions of the king which are trans- 
ferred to his temporary substitute." 

He considers these examples as comparable to the annual appoint- 
ment of temporary kings in Samarcand, Upper Egypt, and Morocco, 

1 GB. iv, chapter 5. 


and to the appointment in certain emergencies of a substitute for the 
Shah of Persia to protect him against some threatened evil. The 
underlying idea seems to he that the magical or divine functions of 
a king are a source of danger to him, and in countries where the welfare 
of the State depends so much on the welfare of the monarch, it would 
be natural to make use of every precaution to protect him against 
danger. The sociological value of the institution of the Temporary 
King was that it gave the king and the people the required confidence 
to enable them to carry out very important State Ceremonies in the 
belief that all danger of evil was thereby averted. This theory is 
supported by valuable evidence supplied by La Loubere to the effect 
that in the seventeenth century, when the power of Temporary Kings 
was at its height, there definitely was a tradition that the performance 
of divine or magical functions was attended with danger : 

" For about an Age since, and upon some superstitious Observation 
of a bad Omen, he labours no more ; but leaves this ceremony to an 
imaginary King, which is purposely created every year. . . . And 
by the same superstition has deterred the Kings themselves. It is looked 
upon as ominous and unlucky to the person." x 

Two features characteristic of the third stage, that in which the 
conception of the Temporary King reaches its highest development, 
are of special interest. They are to some extent complementary. 
On the one hand, the Temporary King has special privileges and royal 
prerogatives, and is rewarded by certain levies and tolls ; on the other 
hand, should he not perform his duties properly, or, in the case of the 
Swinging Ceremony, fail to keep one leg raised from the ground when 
watching the swinging, he was deprived of his rank and otherwise 
treated with indignity. These are mild forms of features characteristic 
of the institution of Temporary Kings wherever found. An example 
of an extreme case is provided by the Roman Saturnalia, in which 
unusual licence was allowed to the slaves (cf. the licence of the 
followers of the Temporary King in Siam) and a soldier was appointed 
as mock king and was afterwards put to death. The rites were 
connected with the transference of public evil from the community 
as a whole to a chosen victim, and the licence and rewards were simply 
the payment considered due to the victim. In Siam we have the same 
idea of the transference of evil, though from the King more particularly 
than from the community as a whole, but it was never thought 
necessary to put the victim to death. Had Siam ever reached the 
logical conclusion arrived at in some other countries, it would have 
been in the Ayudhya period, and we should have known of it. It is 

L. L., p. 20. 








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quite certain that she did not. Buddhism and the extreme respect 
for the King's person, or whatever represented it, were a sufficient 
guarantee against that. The fact that no very strongly denned evil 
ever befell the Temporary King in Siam, provided that he carried 
out his duties properly, enabled the selection for this office of a high 
official, i.e. someone in keeping with the dignity of a king (in Cambodia, 
a Brahman), who was ready to take the risk of possible danger in 
return for the power which he enjoyed during his short reign. This 
led, in course of time, to the office becoming an object of desire on the 
part of officials, and this, in my opinion, is the very factor which led 
to the decline in the status of Temporary Kings in Siam, represented 
by Stages IV and V in which, the raison d'etre of the Temporary King 
having been forgotten, the King first appears as a spectator, and finally 
resumes his magical or divine functions in person. 

Evidence in support of the statement that the object of creating 
Temporary Kings in Siam came to be forgotten is supplied by the 
following quotations : Sir John Bowring, 1 whose mention of the 
matter probably reflects the Siamese ignorance of the question 
prevailing in the days of King Kama IV, says : 

" The whole farce is probably intended to throw scorn upon popular 
influences and reconcile the subject to the authority of a real King." 

Similarly, King Rama V hazards a guess in his book to the effect that 

" The people of Ayudhya wanted to make the ceremony efficacious 
by making the deputy seem to be the king himself come to plough." 

While, in recent times, H. R.H. Prince Damrong puts forward the 
following explanation as to the origin of the Temporary King at the 
Swinging Festival : 

" In a certain temple in Cambodia there is a stone inscription 
relating to a grant of the use of land to the temple by a Khmer King ; 
it is stipulated that, should the King ever come to the country in which 
this temple is situated, the Brahmans must receive him with divine 
honours. We may have here the origin of the rites performed by the 
Brahmans for the reception of the Phya who presides over our swinging 
festival and who represents the sovereign of the country. During the 
course of the swinging ceremonies, this official is still received by the 
Brahmans into the city as though he were a god upon one day, and is 
similarly escorted out of it again by them upon another." 2 

This is ingenious, but quite unconvincing, because it offers no 
explanation of the Temporary King in other Siamese ceremonies, and 
fails to take note of the fact that we are dealing with an institution 

1 Siam, i, 159. 2 JSS.^ vol. xiii, part 2, 1919, p. 19. 


of world-wide distribution. Finally, in the last Swinging Festival 
(December, 1930) when a Chinese brakyd was chosen to preside, no one 
who saw the spirit of elation evinced by the celestials of Bangkok 
from merchant down to coolie, and the zeal with which the elaborate 
procession was prepared, could have been in the least doubt as to 
the extent of the honour believed to have been conferred upon the 
Chinese community. 

The institution of the Temporary King in Siam. has thus 
undoubtedly lost its earlier functional value of enabling the people 
to carry out important rites without fear of evil consequences, yet, so 
long as it lingers in its modified form in the Swinging and Ploughing 
Ceremonies, it retains a certain value as a support to ancient tradition 
and popular respect for the country's past, and nothing that serves 
that end and is otherwise harmless should be lightly abolished. For the 
popular view would, and does, regard Stage V as a modern innovation, 
and not as a return to Stage I, but the annual appearances of the 
Temporary King recall time-honoured tradition and the glory of 
Ayudhya. Not that there is any probability of Stage V ever being 
reached in the Ploughing or Swinging Ceremonies ; Western influence, 
and the new belief that a monarch is more usefully occupied in guiding 
the prosaic affairs of a modern government than in exercising his 
divine and magical functions, are much more likely to bring total 
abolition in their train. 

As to the origin of the institution of Temporary Kings in Siam, 
the fact that the idea was in process of development during the 
Sukhodaya period suggests that it was proximatcly derived from 
Cambodia, and the Khmers may have received the idea from India, 
where the following example of a somewhat similar institution is cited 
by Frazer l : 

" In Bilaspur it seems to be the custom, after the death of a Rajah, 
for a Brahman to eat rice out of the dead Rajah's hand, and then to 
occupy the throne for a year. At the end of the year the Brahman 
receives presents and is dismissed from the territory, being forbidden 
apparently to return. . . . The custom of banishing the Brahman 
who represents the king may be a substitute for putting him to death." 

1 Gn. iv. o. 154. 




I suppose no one feature connected with the countries of Indo-Chma 
has contributed more lavishly to the fund of material on which 
European writers from the seventeenth century onwards have drawn 
in their search for the sensational than has the White Elephant. 
This is perhaps not surprising, considering the unusual nature of the 
cult connected with this animal, but I shall here endeavour to 
confine myself to a discussion of its historical and sociological 
importance. I was privileged to witness some of the ceremonies in 
connection with the reception of the White Elephant for the present 
reign, and I shall therefore base my account on what I saw on that 
occasion, while, as regards the past, I shall make extracts from 
comparatively little-known sources. 

After all that has been written on the subject, it is almost a platitude 
to state that the White Elephant is not white, but that it is merely 
an albino which, if perfect, should have pink and yellow eyes, a light 
reddish-brown skin, white at the edge of the ears and at the top of 
the trunk, white toe-nails, and red hair. The term " white elephant" is 
a figment of the European imagination, for the Siamese never regarded 
it as such, their term Jan Pho'ak meaning simply, albino elephant. 

For the moment it will be sufficient to state that by the common 

Is J 

people the capture of a Jan Phtfak at the beginning of every reign 
is looked upon as an auspicious event, and the possession of one or 
more of these animals as royal appanages is regarded as an outward 
sign, hallowed by ancient custom, of the greatness of the monarchy. 
The underlying significance, now rapidly becoming forgotten by the 
lower classes, will be discussed later. But it may be said at once that 
there never was any actual worship of the White Elephant as commonly 
supposed, and there is very little regard for its sanctity, or other 
respect for it than that which its great size and strength naturally 
inspire. Even as an auspicious omen at the beginning of a reign it 
is doubtful if any Siamese would express himself so enthusiastically 
on the subject as did the late King Rama VI in the following passage, 
in the speech which he made early in his reign : 

" During the first year of our reign several portents of the highest 
traditional import have made themselves manifest, and the augury 

273 T 


they convey convinces us that prosperity, and not calamity, shall 
continue to be the lot of our Thai Race. The discovery of the Monkey 
Standard, the Garu<Ja Standard, and the Bow and Arrow of Rama's 
strength are sure manifestations that warriors ha\e not yet ceased to 
exist in the Land of the Thai, and inspire us all with confidence that the 
defence of our national independence will not be altogether futile. 
The appearance of the White Elephant at the same period is likewise 
a portent that the Kingdom of Siam will not fall to a low estate, unable 
to stand on an equal footing with the nations. All these portents have 
created a deep impression upon us, and we doubt not upon the minds 
of every one of you also." 

The White Elephant for the present reign (PL XLIII) was born in 
captivity in 1926, its mother being one of the elephants of the Borneo 
Company's herd, employed in the extraction of teak, so its appearance 
was not of a very romantic nature. It was presented to the King by the 
Company, and the mother was lent until such time as its distinguished 
offspring should be weaned. The two elephants were brought down 
from the North in a specially constructed railway carriage, supplied 
with electric fan and shower-bath, and made several stops of two or 
three days* duration en route, in order to give the animals a chance to 
rest, and to give the people of some of the provincial towns an 
opportunity to pay homage and enjoy the festivities arranged by the 
provincial governors to commemorate the auspicious occasion. At 
each stopping place the elephants were led to a specially erected 
6ald 9 where a chapter of monks intoned appropriate stanzas, and at 
night the populace were regaled with theatrical performances. At the 
last stopping -place, Pan Pah In, a few hours' journey by rail from 
Bangkok, and the seat of the King's summer palace, the animals 
arrived on 12th November, 1927, and the King, in accordance with 
ancient custom, made the journey up-river by launch to meet them. 
After inspecting them the King returned to Bangkok by water. 

On the 15th the train bearing the elephants arrived at the royal 
station at Bangkok. As they were detrained a chapter of monks chanted 
stanzas, and the animals then took their place in the elaborate pro- 
cession which had been organized for the occasion. The route which 
the procession took from the railway station was lined with masses 
of people all eager to get a view of the unusual sight ; but it was 
certainly only curiosity that inspired them, and not religious awe. 
The procession entered the Tusita Park where the elephant stable 
is situated. 1 I have called it a stable, but it is more properly 

1 There are other elephant stables in the Grand Palace, but they are now only 
used at times when the White Elephant's presence is required there on a state 
occasion, such as the Coronation. ' 



\T<*fttc*> pune 274. 




designated a brah-di-ndn or palace, and it is certainly built in the 
traditional style of Siamese temple or palace architecture. The 
procession was a pageant rather than a state procession in the usual 
sense. On its way to the stable it filed past pavilions accommodating 
the King and Queen, the Royal Family, and officials. Except for the 
bearers of ceremonial weapons and standards, and those in charge of 
the young elephant, its mother, and the White Elephant of the sixth 
reign (PL XLIV), the procession was made up entirely of girls mostly 
drawn from the ranks of the official classes. There were companies of 
girls dressed in the costumes of various foreign countries, others 
dressed to represent flowers, while others were mounted and armed 
with breastplates and lances to represent the amazons of ancient days. 
There were companies of dancers, and the masked actors of the Bdmd- 
yawi also passed in review. The elephants having reached their 
station, the various troupes of actors and acrobats, whose stages were 
erected in different parts of the park, began to perform, ostensibly for 
the benefit of the White Elephant, but perhaps it would be more 
truthful to say for the amusement of the general public, who were 
allowed free access to this royal park on the evenings of the three 
days during which the celebrations lasted. Meanwhile, in the 
elephant "palace", as soon as the animals had entered it, a 
chapter of Buddhist monks intoned formulae, while the Brahmans 
also performed their rites in a special pavilion. 

Next morning (16th), the White Elephant was bathed, and the 
King arrived to take part in the anointing ceremony. Having lit the 
candles of worship before an image of the Buddha, the King awaited 
the auspicious moment of nine hours, twenty-six minutes and twenty- 
four seconds. The young elephant, who was extremely playful and 
appeared to have no respect for the ceremonies, was securely tied to 
upright posts on the inside of the enclosed platform, and the King 
mounted a dais on the outside of the rail. At the auspicious moment 
the Head Brahman struck the gong of victory, while other Brahmans 
blew conches, the monks began to recite stanzas of victory, and the 
King anointed the White Elephant (PL XLV). He also fed it with red 
sugar-cane on which had been inscribed the name by which the animal 
was to be known in future, viz. Brah Savetra Gajedejna Dilok ; 
together with a string of titles somewhat similar to those taken by 
the King at the time of his coronation, i.e. honorific epithets of a 
kind appropriate either to a King or to a noble White Elephant x : 

1 Carl Bock, who visited Siam in 1881, gives the full style and title of the White 
Elephant then recently captured, which I quote as follows, together with Prince 
Prisdang's translation : 


The elder members of the Royal Family also took part in the 
anointment followed by the Brahmans. The officials of the Elephant 
Department then dressed the White Elephant in full state, with the 
insignia of the rank of Brdhyd Jan ; and a golden cord was jplaced 
round its neck to signify that the khvdn (spirit) of a Brahyd Jan was 
being retained, Miniature trees were placed at the four corners of 
the platform on which the elephants stood. Food was presented 
to the monks who had officiated, and the King conferred promotion 
and reward upon those who had been connected with the White 
Elephant and attended it hitherto. It is obvious that the above 
ceremonies must be considered in the light of a form of abhiseka, 
the King anointing the White Elephant and conferring upon it a style 
and title. Possibly the feeding of the animal with red sugar-cane is a 
relic of the sacrament which accompanies coronation ceremonies in 
many countries, but of which we have been unable to find any trace in 
the Siamese Rdjdbhiseka. The mention of the retention of the khvan 
is remarkable, and suggests that the form of abhiseka, which the 
ceremonies represent, is rather an initiation than a coronation. 

A digression must here be made to consider the accoutrements of 
the White Elephant. Some idea of their evolution can be gained by 
a comparison with the ancient Khmer bas-reliefs. The harness of 
the Siamese White Elephant shows much fewer parts than that of the 
elephant depicted on the reliefs of Bakong, which was a common 
draught elephant ; it is also simpler than that of the Siamese war- 
elephant, because it was not usually ridden except by the necessary 
mahouts, and therefore did not require a howdah. As La Loubere 
remarks 1 : 

" The King of Siam never mounts the White Elephant, and the 
reason which they give is, that the White Elephant is as great a Lord 
as himself, because he has a King's soul like him." 

Nevertheless, it appears that the King did ride the White Elephant 
in former times in Siam, as is indicated by a passage in the stele of 

" Phra Sawet Sakonla Warophat ake udom chat visute thi mongkon sri sama aakon 
loma naka net adisaya sawet viset san komon la phan prom kra khoon paramintara 
narane soon siamma tirat pha hana nat mahan tadct kotchcra ratana phiset chaloem 
phop kiet kachon chop charocn sak phra chak phon parun vibun aawat akka nakin 
ratana phra soet loet fa." 

" An elephant of beautiful colour, hair, nails, and eyes are white. Perfection in 
form, with all the signs of regularity of the high family. The colour of the skin is 
that of lotus. A descendant of the angel of the Brahmans. Acquired as property 
by the power and glory of the king for his service. Is of the highest family of elephants 
of all in existence. A source of power of attraction of rain. It is as rare as the 
purest crystal of the highest value in the world " (Temples and Elephants, p. 26). 

i L. L.. u. 43. 






Kama Gamhen, which? is incidentally the first known mention of the 
White Elephant in Siam. The passage is as follows : 

" On the da^s of the new and full moon the King orders the White 
Elephant named BucaM to be caparisoned with the saddle ornamented 
with gold and ivory on the right and left ; the King mounts it and goes 
to pay his devotions to the venerable chief of the Arannikas and then 
returns." l 

Similarly, in early times in Burma, the King is referred to as 
11 the exalted, who rides upon a White Elephant " 2 ; 
and Batuta, who wrote in A.D. 1350, says the King of Ceylon was in the 
habit of riding on a White Elephant on state occasions. 

Some of the Khmer reliefs show elephants wearing crowns, and 
Groslier 3 illustrates an example which might well represent a White 
Elephant with its magnificent mokhut and saddle cloth. The modern 
Siamese White Elephant does not wear a crown, but only a highly 
ornamented head-cloth, sometimes in three overlapping pieces which 
might represent the tiers of the mokhut. It also wears a saddle-cloth 
ornamented with the royal arms. Groslier 4 also shows examples 
of elephant " bells ", but the modern White Elephant does not carry 
bells, though it does carry, as also do the other royal elephants, 
suspended from its head, a pair of yak's hair tufts, to keep off the evil 
spirits, which spring from bell-shaped holders, and appear to be 
similar to the bells figured by Groslier. On the other hand, the yak's 
tufts are not figured in the reliefs, and may therefore be a Siamese 

It will be understood that the attention shown to the young White 
Elephant on its arrival was of short duration, and that it soon faded 
from the public eye. It is well known that the White Elephants were 
forgotten and neglected during the dosing decades of last century, 
but, if the noble animal does not enjoy very much royal favour 
nowadays, a growing knowledge of the conditions necessary for the 
welfare of animals, coupled with the fact that the White Elephants 
are much in demand as a tourist sight, has led to a general improvement 
in their condition, which at present might be described as the happy 
medium between the total neglect which was their lot during preceding 
decades and the pampered state which they enjoyed, and which often 
brought about their death from indigestion, in the days of Old Siam. 
The reception of the young White Elephant and its mother in 1927 

1 Coedes, Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, p. 47 ; Bradley's translation of this passage 
in JSS. vi, is inaccurate. 

2 Epigraphia Birmanica, vol. i, part 2, M6n inscription, iii, face D. 

3 Or., Fig. 68. * Gr., Fig. 67. 


was, of course, only a revival brought about by & King with antiquarian 
interests and a strong believer in the undoubted fact that to keep up 
old customs is a valuable means of inspiring the peeple with a respect 
for the past, and a spirit of loyalty to the Crown. When I visited 
the young animal on the occasion of the celebrations I noticed that, 
although carefully prepared food was arranged on gold plates in the 
vicinity, the White Elephant was, in fact, fed in quite an ordinary 
manner, the precious vessels being kept well out of the way of the 
playful youngster. I was, in common with other members of the public, 
permitted to offer it sugar-cane, which was considered an act of merit. 
To see the White Elephant as it was in the days of its glory one 
must go back to the reign of King Rama IV. It was this pious king 
who, even in his official letter of welcome to Sir John Bowring, the 
British Ambassador, could not refrain from adding the following 
postscript : 

" I have just returned from old city Ayudia of Siam fifteen days ago 
with the beautiful She Elephant which your Excellency will witness 
here on your Excellency's arrival." 

The following information is extracted from the writings of Mrs. 
Leonowens 1 : 

In those days, when the governor of a province was notified of the 
appearance of a white elephant within his domain, he immediately 
commanded prayers and offerings to be made in all the temples, while 
he sent out a formidable expedition of hunters and slaves to take the 
precious beast and bring it in in triumph. As soon as he was informed 
of its capture, a special messenger was despatched to inform the king 
of its sex, probable age, size, complexion, deportment, looks and 
ways ; and in the presence of his Majesty this bearer of glorious tidings 
underwent the painfully pleasant operation of having his mouth, ears, 
and nostrils stuffed with gold. Especially was the lucky individual, 
perhaps some half-wild woodsman, who was first to spy the illustrious 
monster, munificently rewarded. A wide path was cut for the animal's 
passage through to the jungle, and on arriving at the rivei-bank he was 
installed in a floating palace of wood, surmounted by a gorgeous roof, and 
hung with crimson curtains. The roof was thatched with flowers, the 
floor overlaid with gilt matting, while an obsequious crowd bathed 
him, perfumed him, fed him, sung and played to him. At a point some 
seventy miles from the capital, he was met by the king and his court, 
all the chief personages of the kingdom, and a multitude of Buddhist 
monks and Brahman priests, accompanied by troops of players and 
musicians who conducted him with all honour to his stable-palace. 
A great number of cords and ropes of all qualities and lengths were 
attached to the raft, those in the centre being of fine silk. These were 
for the king and his noble retinue, who with their own hands made 
them fast to their gilded barges, the rest being secured to the great 
fleet of lesserjboats. Thus the White Elephant was escorted to the 
1 The English Governess at the Siamese Court, pp. 141 sqq. Also P. i, 152 sqq. 


capital in triumph, there to be anointed by the king and f6ted with 
theatrical entertainments for nine days, while his tusks were ringed 
with gold and he was robed in purple. Whenever he went out for his 
bath his head was shielded by a royal umbrella, while pages waved 
golden fans before him. He was fed with the finest of royal food from 
plates of gold and silver, and, should he fall ill, he was attended by the 
king's own physician, while priests daily repaired to his palace to pray 
for his safe deliverance, and to sprinkle him with consecrated water. 

To the above account I may add that it was formerly the custom 
to provide young White Elephants with a large number of human 
wet-nurses. I have in my possession a photograph, taken about a 
dozen years ago, of a Siamese woman suckling a young elephant, 
probably a white one. 

It is perhaps not generally known that lullabies were composed to 
induce the White Elephant to sleep, and that a eulogy was recited 
immediately such an animal was captured in order to persuade him 
to resign himself to his new mode of existence. The following is a 
translation of the latter : 

" With holy reverence we now come to worship the angels who 
preside over the destiny of all elephants. Most powerful angels, we 
entreat you to assemble now in order that you may prevent all evil 
to His Majesty the King of Siam, and also to this magnificent elephant 
which has recently been brought. We appeal to you all, whom we now 
worship, and beg that you will use your power in restraining the heart 
of this animal from all anger and unhappiness. We also beg that you 
will incline this elephant to listen to the words of instruction and 
comfort that we now deliver. Most royal elephant ! We beg that you 
will not think too much of your father and mother, your relatives, 
and friends. We beg that you will not regret leaving your native 
mountain and forests, because there are evil spirits there that are very 
dangerous, and wild beasts are there that howl, making a fearful noise, 
and there too that bird hassadin which hovers round and often picks 
up elephants and eats them ; and there are also bands of cruel hunters 
who kill elephants for their ivory. We trust you will not return to the 
forest, for you would be in constant danger. And that is not all, in the 
forest you have no servants, and it is very unpleasant to sleep with 
dust and filth adhering to your body, and where flies and mosquitoes 
are very troublesome. Brave and noble elephant ! Why should you 
wish to wander free ? The forest is full of thorns, bushes and marshes. 
Why should you wish to cross the valley and mountains ? There you 
must drink muddy water, and there the stones will cut your feet. 
Father Elephant ! We entreat you to banish every wish to stay in 
the forest. Look at this delightful place, this heavenly city ! It 
abounds in wealth and everything your eyes could wish to see or your 
heart desire to possess. It is of your own merit that you have come to 
behold this beautiful city, to enjoy its wealth, and to be the favourite 
guest of His most exalted Majesty the King." l 

1 Siam, M. L. Court, New York, 1886, pp. 210 sq. 


This curious practice has the sanction of antiquity, as Mr. F. H. 
Giles has pointed out, 1 for Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador at the 
court of the Hindu emperor Chandragupta, about 300 B.C., whose 
capital was at Pataliputra (modern Patna), records that Indians sang 
songs to the accompaniment of music to soothe and coax wild elephants 
recently captured. 

The following extracts from the Annals of Ayu&hya, relating to 
events in the seventeenth century, will serve as a further illustration 
of the esteem In which the White Elephant was held by the Siamese 
of Old Siam : 

" In the Siamese Civil era 1020 [A.D. 1658] year of the Cock, H.M. 
took a boat excursion to Nakon Sawan. While at this place H,E. Phya 
Chakri informed H.M. that Khun Srikhaun Charin of the province 
Sri-sawat had reported that while he was out gathering information 
in the forests of Hui sai, Nai Ahnsui had captured a she white elephant, 
over sixty inches high. Her ears, tail, and her general appearance were 
beautiful. The capture was made on Tuesday, in the second lunation, 
second of the waning. H.M. gave orders that H.B. the governor of 
Tanahwasee (Tenasserim), and all skilled in the management of 
elephants go and bring to him the white elephant, H.M. then returning 
to Ayuthia, the capital. The white elephant was brought to the 
capital in the second lunation, fifth of the waxing, and a magnifi- 
cent boat procession received her and brought her to a stall near the 
palace. H.M. conferred upon his great and distinguished acquisition the 
following name : Phra-intra-aiyarah-warnawisutti-racha-kirini. The 
astrologers and wise sages, and princes, ministers and nobles were 
required to make demonstrations of gladness for three days. After 
which beautiful ornaments and utensils were made for the decoration 
and use of the white elephant, and Phra Sri-sittikarn was appointed 
to care for the animal. Nai Ahnsui, the son of Khun Sri-khaun Charin 
who captured the elephant, received from H.M. the title Khun 
kachen-taun-aiyarah-wisutt-rach-kirini, and presents of a silver box 
with a golden rim, and 96 dollars, a cotton and silk waist cloth and a 
silk coat, and to this man's wife H.M. presented a silver bowl with 
lotus petal rim, weighing dollars 24, and its accompaniments and dollars 
18, and a calico waist cloth. H.M. promoted Khun Sri-khaun-chaiin, 
the father of Nai Ahnsui with the title Luang Sawats Kachentara, 
and presented to him a silver box inlaid with the figure of an elephant's 
ear, and gold ornaments for his box and 96 dollars, a cotton and silk 
waist cloth, and a silk jacket. As Nai Ahn Sui, when he captured the 
elephant, thought her eyes were defective, and was about to let the 
precious prize go, H.M. gave only such presents. To the elephant 
driver, and the elephant keeper, H.M. made the presents usually 
given when a white elephant has been obtained. To the bearer of the 
letter of information reporting the capture of the animal, and to the 
man who delivered her each received from H.M. a present. The value 
of the presents made on this occasion amounted to dollars 846. The 
political servants who are required to pay their annual quota of block 
1 JSS. xxiii, pt. 2> 1929, p. 65. 


tin, and who assisted in leading to the capture, and the Government 
servants who have in charge the white elephant and who assisted in 
the present instance each received some token of royal favour for their 
service." * 

Again : 

" In the Siamese civil era 1022, year of the Rat, second of the 
decade [i.e. A.D. 1660], the provincial officials of Nakon Sawan sent a 
dispatch to the Samuha nahyok department, that one of the officers 
of the elephant keepers, had captured a white elephant about 80 inches 
high. The animal was a very pretty one and it was captured in the 
forests of the province, Nakon Sawan. H.E. Chao Phya Kosa Chakri 
(Minister of the North), presented this glorious intelligence to H.M. the 
King of Siam. This was a source of immense gratification to the King 
of Siam, who promptly gave orders to the ministers and their subaltern 
officers, who have in charge the royal elephants, to go up and receive 
this eminent beast, and bring it to Ayuthia, and that all necessary 
preparation^ be made for an ornamental and grand procession by land 
and by water as was customary for such auspicious acquisitions. The 
lordly animal was to be placed in a shed outside of the Royal palace, 
and appointed a grand festival, at which Buddhist priests and Brahmins 
were to officiate, to be enlivened with music, theatricals and other 
amusements to interest the public for some days, after which the highly- 
prized acquisition was to be conducted to its shed within the palace 
walls. H.M. honoured it with the dignified and imposing title, Chao 
Phya Broma Chentara Chatratant and provided for the royal beast 
gold decorations, ornamented with the nine distinguished gems, and 
designated leading men of the elephant department, and masters 
of tens to be in attendance upon the lordly white elephant. The 
fortunate man who captured the animal was elevated to the rank of 
Khun Mun. According to ancient custom he had honours, clothing 
and money showered upon him as usual. Those who were associated 
with him and assisted in the capture were each rewarded, and received 
certificates exempting them from every description of taxes, and they 
were dismissed to return to their homes, and engage in their usual 

" The Khun Mun who was appointed to superintend, have in charge 
and care for this lordly elephant, diligently taught it till it understood 
human language, and could do a number of deeds. All who were under 
sentence of severe penalties for grave offences and were in prison, and for 
whom none could have interceded, prepared vows and promised votive 
offerings to this white elephant, and then presented to the elephant 
their written petition. The elephant took these petitions up in his 
proboscis, raised it in adoration to the King, and presented them to 
him, and thus entreated for the petitioners' pardon. Whenever H.M. 
made his appearance at the lordly elephant's shed, on such occasions 
H.M. reached forth his hand, received from the elephant the petition, 
read it, acquainted himself with the contents and out of regard to 
the lordly beast, granted to the beast the request of the petitioner. 
All thus pardoned, upon their release brought to the royal beast, the 
votive offerings they had bound themselves to give. After the 
acquisition of this animal, many criminals, sent petitions in this way 


and through the beast obtained their pardon. H.M. the King became 
very meritorious being the possessor of a male and female white 
elephant, as special royal seats, and H.M.'s wonderful power was known 
in all parts of the world, among the great and small nations and H.M.'s 
enemies greatly respected and feared him." x 

Not only in Siam, but also in the other countries of Indo -China, was 
the White Elephant an object of desire. Especially was this the case 
in Burma, as we know from the accounts of Ralph Fitch, who travelled 
throughout Burma in 1582, and of Father Sangermano, who was in 
Burma some two hundred years later. It is not surprising, therefore, 
to find that the desire for the possession of the sacred animal was on 
more than one occasion the cause of war. Thus it was that in the 
middle of the sixteenth century, King Cakravarti of Ayudhya, who 
was the proud possessor of no less than seven white elephants, and 
had been persuaded to take the title of f ' Lord of the White Elephant ", 
aroused the jealousy of King Bayin-Naung of Burma, who sent to 
demand two of the animals. His request was refused, whereupon 
he immediately declared war on Siam, and was not satisfied until 
four white elephants, instead of the two he had originally demanded, 
had been handed over. 2 

We have seen with what esteem the White Elephant was regarded 
during life, that it was received with all honours befitting a king, that 
it was anointed and named after the manner of a royal abhiseka, that 
in health it was served in its own palace by royal pages, and in sickness 
it was attended by the king's physician. It is not therefore surprising 
to find that after death it was honoured by a royal cremation. 

In recent times the occasion of the death of a White Elephant 
has, as one would expect, not occasioned very much notice or alarm : 

" On the occasion of the last death a few Brahmins, the white 
monkey, and some physicians, only, attended the death-bed. 
After the elephant was dead, an excavation was made in the ground 
near its head, and incense burned. The carcase was then covered with 
white cloth, dragged on board a barge, and taken outside the city. It 
was not cremated, but was left to decay, the bones and tusks being 
afterwards collected and preserved. For three days Brahmins remained 
praying in the stable." 

Mrs. Leonowens, however, gives a graphic picture of the consterna- 
tion which the death of a White Elephant caused in the reign of King 
Kama IV. In 1862 a magnificent White Elephant had been captured 

1 Reign of King Narayana, translated from the Annals of A yudhya, by S. J. Smith, 
Bangkok, 1880. ' 

2 Wood, History of Siam, pp. 117 sq. 

3 " The Decadent White Elephant," in Imperial and Asiatic Review, vol. xi. 


and a splendid pavilion had been erected in front of the Grand Palace 
to receive it. The whole nation was filled with joy, until there came 
the awful tidings that it had died. 

" No man dared tell the King. But the Kralahome that man of 
prompt expedients and unfailing presence of mind commanded that 
the preparations should cease instantly, and that the buildings should 
vanish with the builders. In the evening his Majesty came forth, as 
usual, to exult in the glorious work. What was his astonishment to 
find no vestige of the splendid structure that had been so nearly 
completed the night before. He turned, bewildered, to his courtiers, 
to demand an explanation, when suddenly the terrible truth flashed 
into his mind. With a cry of pain, he sank down upon a stone, and 
gave vent to an hysterical passion of tears ; but was presently consoled 
by one of his children, who, carefully prompted in his part, knelt 
before him and said : ' Weep not, my father ! The stranger lord 
may have left us but for a time.' " 

Only the brains and the heart were cremated, the carcase, shrouded 
in fine white linen, being floated on a barge down the river. Shortly 
afterwards the king showed Mrs. Leonowens its tusks and a part of 
its skin preserved, at the same time reading the following curious 
description of the deceased monster : 

" His eyes were light blue, surrounded by a salmon colour ; his 
hair fine, soft, and white ; his complexion pinkish white ; his tusks 
like long pearls ; his ears like silver shields ; his trunk like a comet's 
tail ; his legs like the feet of the skies ; his tread like the sound of 
thunder ; his looks full of meditation ; his expression full of tender- 
ness ; his voice the voice of a mighty warrior ; and his bearing that 
of an illustrious monarch." 1 

Van Vliet has left us a short account of the death and obsequies 
of a White Elephant during the reign of King Prasada Don of Ayudhya. 
He states that 

" In the commencement of the reign of the present king, a young 
white elephant was caught which suddenly died in 1633. His Majesty 
was so upset by this, that all the slaves, who had guarded and assisted 
the animal were executed. Besides this, the king paid reverence to 
the dead animal, ordered it to be buried near one of the famous 
temples, and a small house of a pyramidal shape was built over the 
grave. But after it had been buried a short time, it was dug up and 
was burned with a splendour, even greater than that which has been 
displayed for the most famous mandarins. All remains which had not 
been consumed by the fire, were collected in a box, buried at the 
temple, and a beautiful pyramid was erected over it." 2 

Finally, it is interesting to note that the White Elephant is not 
without the crowning dignity of a special " pantheon '* corresponding 

1 The English Governess at the Siamese Court, pp. 144 sq. 

2 JSS., vol. vii, pt. i, 1910, p. 100. 


to that of the kings. In the Chapel Royal of the Emerald Buddha are 
to be seen twenty-one statuettes of elephants, each with its name 
carved on the pedestal. These represent the White Elephants which 
have added to the splendour, prestige, and prosperity of the Royal 
House of Cakri of Siam. 

In endeavouring to trace the history of the White Elephant Cult 
in Indo-China we naturally look to India, at once the home of the 
elephant and of the culture which has been adopted by most of the 
peoples of Indo-China. If we had gone to Africa, also the home of the 
elephant, we should also have found the White Elephant regarded 
as a sacred animal in Abyssinia. But it is unnecessary to seek for 
any connection between Indo-China and Abyssinia for, as Sir James 
Frazer has shown in the various volumes of The Golden Bough, albino 
animals are held to be sacred in many parts of the world. This fact 
probably supplies us with the origin of the White Elephant Cult in 
pre-historic times. White animals were esteemed because they were 
rare, and especially would this be so in the case of the White Elephant 
which is not only extremely rare, but belongs to a species which, even 
in its ordinary form, was always venerated on account of its strength, 
size, and value in war. In the earliest times the White Elephant came 
to be regarded as having a magical significance. In the Vessantara 
Jdtaka the White Elephant was regarded as a rain maker, and we have 
seen that this is one of the epithets used in connection with the Siamese 
White Elephant. Van Vliet x has the story of a White Elephant that 
turned black, and afterwards red, much to the consternation of the 
officials in charge ; while it is clear from several remarks in the Bahsd- 
vahtdra of Hlvan Prasoeth, that the royal elephants were closely 
watched for omens. For instance, 

" the chief elephant Phraya Chaddanta uttered a noise like that 
produced by the sounding of a conch-shell," 

following which an accident befell the king. On another occasion 

" the chief elephant Svasti Mongol and the chief elephant Keo Chak- 
raratna were fighting with each other, and the left tusk of the elephant 
Svasti Mongol got loose. On this the soothsayers forbade the prepara- 
tions for a war." 


" In Phitsnulok on Wednesday the 8th of the 10th waxing moon 
(A.D. 1547), marvellous events happened, inasmuch as the Menam 
Sai in Phitenulok rose over the banks of the river for three soks. 
Furthermore the apparition of a female form resembling an elephant 
was seen ; it had the appearance of a trunk of an elephant ; the 

x LOG, cit. 


ears were large a.nd it was seen sitting at the temple Prasad in 
Phitsnulok." i 

I have mentioned these examples, and many more could be collected, 
because they seem to indicate that the early pre-religious significance 
of the White Elephant has survived in Siam until comparatively 
modern times, and we may indeed have here the relics of an early 
indigenous White Elephant Cult followed by the peoples of Indo -China 
long before the grafting on of imported Indian interpretations. In 
support of this is the fact that the elephant hunters of the Goraja table- 
land in Eastern Siam have retained until the present day an elaborate 
system of spirit-worship, and early beliefs in connection with elephants, 
with which Mr. F. H. Giles has dealt at length in The Journal of the 
Siam Society. 2 

The great religious systems of India each gave their special 
interpretations to the already existing cult of elephants. In Hinduism 
the first of all elephants is the magnificent Airavata, the derivation 
of whose name is referred to the word Iravat, signifying " produced 
from the ocean " in accordance with the mythical churning of the 
ocean. 3 It is frequently referred to in Hindu mythology and in the 
Edmdyana. It is the mount of Indra, and in India possesses one and 
sometimes three heads, representing the three great gods, Brahma, 
Visnu, and ^iva, but in Siam is more frequently represented as having 
thirty-three heads in consonance with the heaven of the thirty-three 
gods (tavatu'nsa). 

In Buddhism the White Elephant was cast for the role filled by 
the dove in Christianity : 

" Then the future Buddha, who had become a superb white elephant , 
and was wandering on the Golden Hill, not far from there, descended 
thence, and ascending the Silver Hill, approached her from the North. 
Holding in his silvery trunk a white lotus flower, and uttering a far- 
reaching cry, he entered the golden mansion, and thrice doing obeisance 
to his mother's couch, he gently struck her right side, and seemed to 
enter her womb." 4 

But it is mainly to the part taken by the White Elephant in several 
of the Jdtakas that the animal owes its fame and sacredness in the 
eyes of all pious Buddhists. Perhaps the best known of these ancient 
stories is the Vessantara Jdtaka, in which Prince Vessantara gives away 
the magical rain-producing elephant, the most valued possession of 

1 JSS., vol. vi, 1908, "Events in Ayudhya from Chulasakaraj, 686-966." 

2 Vol. xxiii, pt. 2, 1929. 

Dowson's Hindu Classical Dictionary, p. 9. 
* Rhys Davids, Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 150. 


his country. In several Jdtakas the Bodhisattva himself is born 
as a White Elephant, most notably in the Ohaddantha Jataka where 
he is a noble six-tusked elephant. The Mati-posakff, Jdtaka is most 
interesting to us because it shows how the bounty lavished on White 
Elephants by pious Buddhist kings in Siam was founded on the 
example set by ancient Indian kings : 

"I, my lord, have seen a splendid elephant, white all over, and 
excellent, fit for the king's riding ! . . . And the king caused the city 
to be decorated. The trainer led the Bodhisattva into a stable all 
adorned and decked with a screen of many colours, and sent word to 
the king. And the king took all manner of fine food and caused it 
to be given to the Bodhisattva." * 

This passage might almost refer to the reception of a White 
Elephant in the heyday of the cult in Siam. One more Jataka may be 
mentioned the Dumedha which tells of a king who was jealous of 
the beauty and honour of his White Elephant. 

A Greek source affords us independent evidence of the esteem in 
which White Elephants were held about 300 B.C., and here again 
the events described might almost have occurred in Siam in the days 
when Ayudhya was capital of the realm : 

" Megasthenes gives a story of a white elephant which was caught 
and kept by its owner ; there arising between the two a great friendship 
and love. The king, hearing of this white elephant, commanded that 
it be made over to him, but the owner refused and fled to the jungle 
with his animal. The king sent men in pursuit, and a great fight, in 
which the elephant fought on the side of his master, took place. The 
king's men were put to flight, and the elephant nursed his master, who 
had been wounded, bringing him to convalescence. It is not recorded 
that the king obtained possession of this animal, but the story goes to 
prove that over 2,000 years ago the white elephant was the object of 
desire on the part of a monarch, and the same is amply proved by the 
Jdtaka stories in which the white elephant plays an important part." 1 

We thus see that three different points of view have become fused 
together to produce the historical White Elephant Cult of Indo-China 
in general, and Siam in particular. These are : 

(1) The animistic or magical, still surviving in the taboos and 
propitiatory rites of the Goraja elephant hunters and only awaiting 
some such ill-omened event as the sudden death of the young White 
Elephant of the present reign, to be revived amongst the super- 
stitious lower classes of the capital. 

(2) The Hindu, represented by the many-headed elephant of India, 
to be seen in the masked performances of the Rdmdyana, sometimes 

1 Jataka No. 455, edn. of Cowell. F. H, Giles, loc. cit. 


also in the procession of the Swinging Festival, and on the one tical 
silver pieces, but now perhaps altogether without religious or magical 

(3) The Buddhist, according to which the animal is still half 
seriously regarded by some as being animated by the soul, if not of a 
Bodhisattva, at least of some being in an advanced stage of the journey 
towards Nirvana, though there is not, nor has there ever been, any 
idea of worship, in the proper sense of the word. Indeed, this Buddhist 
idea has now almost degenerated into a supposition that the White 
Elephant is a sign of the King's merit. 

To these may be added the severely practical official point of 
view, in accordance with which it is realized that the White Elephant 
has always been an important adjunct of Siamese royalty and may 
yet for many years continue to help to inspire the common people 
with a wholesome respect for the monarchy. 

A few words remain to be said about the white monkey and the 
white crow, which are the companions of the White Elephant in 
captivity. Apart from the fact that these animals are prized on 
account of their rarity, there is also a mythological interpretation. 
The white monkey represents Hanuman, the monkey hero of the 
Rdmayana, or, according to the Buddhist interpretation, the monkey 
who offered honey to the Buddha ; while I suppose that the white 
crow may represent the sacred bird Garuija. 



1. The Hoisting of Lamps on Poles (Con Parian). 1 

The term Cdn Parian means, literally, the hoisting of fat (parian = 
fat). According to ancient usage, lanterns were raised on posts, as will 
shortly be described, on the first day of the bright fortnight and lowered 
on the second day of the dark fortnight of the additional month, if 
the year had one ; if it had not, they were raised on the fourteenth 
day of the bright fortnight of the twelfth month, and lowered on the 
first day of the bright fortnight of the first month. According to the 
astrologers the lanterns were to be raised on the day on which the sun 
entered Scorpio and the moon was in Taurus. An alternative method 
was to raise the lanterns when the Pleiades were visible throughout 
the night. 

On the appointed day, in the morning, the King sprinkled the 
" posts of the lamps of victory " (sau gom jdya) with lustral water, 
and anointed them with fragrant unguents. Then the posts were 
raised. There were three of these wooden posts, and they had nine- 
tiered umbrellas of white cloth erected over them. There were also 
three lamp-posts called sau gom jdya grahdiap, and these had seven- 
tiered umbrellas above them. They were all painted white, and hung 
with little bells. The lanterns were bamboo frames covered with 
white cloth. Around them were one hundred " attendant " posts of 
bamboo. These had three-tiered umbrellas and lanterns of bamboo 
framework covered with paper. The ceremony took place within the 
precincts of the royal palace, where the posts were erected, and where 
the Brahmans in a special pavilion erected for the purpose prepared 
the candles each morning. These were smeared with cow's fat in 
accordance with a very ancient Brahmanical custom, and presented 
to the King together with a conch full of lustral water for sprinkling 
the posts. Twenty-four candles were burnt in the " lanterns of 
victory " each night, each candle lasting about three hours. King 
Rama IV used always to come out and light the candles in the lanterns 
himself. King Rama V sometimes did so, and sometimes did not. 
In the latter case the Brahmans sent the candles and sacred fire into 

1 Sources : BRB., pp. 9 sqq. ; NN., pp. 63 sqq. ; just mentioned in KM . ; also 
mentioned by Gervaise (edn. of 1688, p. 159), and by L.L., p. 48. 


the palace where the ping lit them, and his sons brought them out and 
set them up. If the King was away from the capital, the ceremony was 
performed in the palace in which he was staying. It was also performed 
in the palace of the Ugaraja, and, in the royal palace, outside the 
quarters of the princes and princesses. The Cdh Parian fell into disuse 
in the latter part of the reign of King Kama V, but since then it has 
on one occasion been revived, in the last year of King Rama VPs 
reign. 1 

In Siam it was always realized that Con Parian had originally been 
a Brahmanic ceremony, the worship of the three gods Siva, Visnu, 
and Brahma, represented evidently by the three posts crowned with 
nine-tiered umbrellas, while the three posts crowned with seven-tiered 
umbrellas possibly represented their &aktis, and the " attendant posts " 
their heavenly courtiers. But later it came to be popularly regarded 
as having a Buddhist significance : the worship of the relics of the 
Buddha, the " Crest- Jewel" in the "Heaven of the Thirty-three 
Gods ", and the footprints of the Buddha found on the ridge of sand 
of the Narmada and worshipped by the Snake people (Nagas). King 
Rama IV fostered this interpretation by introducing, in his customary 
way, the recital of Buddhist texts in the evening and the feeding of 
monks in the morning before the lantern posts were set up. In this 
connection it is interesting to note that a corresponding royal ceremony 
was celebrated by the Buddhist kings of Ceylon. 2 

For the original of the Brahmanic festival we must, of course, 
turn to India. It can, without a doubt, be identified with the Hindu 
Diwali or Dipawali, which is still celebrated in India by all house- 
holders at the same season as the Cdn Parian. Dubois 3 says : 

" At the end of November or the beginning of December the 
Deepavali (feast of lamps) is celebrated. It occupies several days. 
Every evening while it lasts the Hindus place lighted lamps at the doors 
of their houses or hang paper lanterns on long poles in the street. 
This feast appears to be specially dedicated to fire. But as it is held 
at a time when most of the cereal crops are ready for harvesting, the 
cultivators in many places are then in the habit of going together in 
procession to their fields, and there offering up to their crops prayers 
and sacrifices of rams or goats, in order, as it were, to give thanks to 
their crops for having ripened and become fit for the food of man." 

Gerini 4 apparently considers that the ceremony in Siam was also 
connected with agriculture, being performed in order 

1 Aa recorded in the Bangkok Times for 2nd Nov., 1\)25. 
a Knox, pp. 160, 161. 
D., p. 671. 
* Ge. (2). 


" to retain the water from draining off the padi fields, for the ears 
of rice would not attain maturity if the yearly inundation were to 
abate so early". 

This is presumably a conjecture, since I find no evidence for it in 
the Siamese literature on the subject. On the contrary, it seems 
always to have been regarded in Siam as a form of worship of 
the three gods (later given a Buddhist significance) just as in India, 
as Gerini A himself admits, 

" it is essentially a festival in honour of Vishnu and his consort, for it 
is known that on the llth day of the new moon of Karttika the god 
awakes from his four months' sleep, and that his victory over king Ball 
(Vamana avatara) took place at this season." 

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that Brahmanic worship was 
seldom, if ever, performed without a definite object, and the connection 
of Dipawali with agriculture in India is significant. In Siam the pujd 
was kept up long after its object was forgotten. 

2. The Kahtikeyd Festival* 

This Brahmanical ceremony was abolished in the early years of 
the present century. Formerly it was performed in the first Siamese 
month, but King Rama IV ordered it to be performed in the twelfth. 
In making this change to the twelfth month (Karttika), when the moon 
is in conjunction with Pleiades, King Rama IV was guided by the 
name of the ceremony. No doubt it was originally performed in the 
twelfth month, but had been transferred to the first month at the time 
when the Swinging Festival was transferred to the second month. 
There seems to have been a connection between the Kahtikeya 
Festival and the Swinging Ceremony (when the latter was performed 
in the first month), and it was also connected with the Cdn Parian, 
being performed about the middle of the same month, sometimes 
a little earlier and sometimes a little later. The nature of the relation- 
ship between these ceremonies will be discussed later. 

The features of this ceremony were as follows : Three platforms, 
each four cubits high, were erected in front of the temples of Siva, 
Ganesa, and Visnu. By the four sides of each platform, facing the 
four cardinal points, were raised four mounds of sand and cowdung 
called " mountains ", each a cubit high, and shaped according to one 
of the yantra diagrams in the Brahmanical books. 3 The Brahmans also 
brought three new pots which were covered with plaited ropes, and 
were called '*" jewel- vessels " (patra Ic&v). A zinc tube containing nine 
cotton wicks, and bags of padi, pulses, and sesamum, were placed in 

1 Loc. cit. * BRBtt pp. 17 sqqt 3 See Plate III. 


the pots. Then they brought twelve sticks, each four cubits long, 
called " divine clubs " (mai debddnda). The ends of these sticks were 
wound with strips of cloth, so that they could be soaked with oil 
and lighted. At nightfall the Brah Mahd Raja Gru consecrated the 
sticks and pots and lit the wicks in the latter. He also sprinkled 
the sticks with lustral water and anointed them. Having placed the 
pots on posts near the platforms, he lit the ends of the sticks and threw 
them at the " mountains " one after another, until he had thrown 
all the twelve. Omens were drawn from the way in which the sticks 
fell, east representing the King, south the priesthood, west the ministers 
and officials, and north the people. 

The Brah Mahd Raja Gru then made oblations of parched rice to 
the " jewel- vessels " in which fire was kept burning in front of the 
temples for three nights. On the third day the vessels were taken 
inside the temples, and the fire put out with lustral water, which 
concluded the ceremony. 

It is quite clear that the making of predictions by the casting of 
sticks at the hillocks is no part of the original rite, but is one of the 
late soothsaying modifications which the Brahmans added on to most 
State Ceremonies with the object of showing their own importance 
and flattering the King. But it was this soothsaying which was 
nearly always discontinued, as a result of the growth of education, 
long before the main part of the ceremony ceased to be performed. 
The Kahtikeya Festival is no exception and the soothsaying connected 
with this ceremony was abolished many years ago, and what was the 
nature of the predictions is now forgotten. But, as King Rama V 
naively remarks, 

" perhaps the predictions were uniformly good every year till at 
last the King could remember them and ordered them to be cut out." 

As to the significance of the main ceremony, it seems that the 
Siamese have no clear ideas. King Rama IV, who waa uncertain 
as to the purpose of the Brahmanical rites, was at a loss to know 
where Buddhist modifications might be added on ; so he did nothing 
beyond restoring the observance to its original month. King Rama V 
suggested, in view of its coming shortly before the Swinging Festival, 
that the lamps were lit outside the temples to welcome the gods who 
were about to come down to earth ; but this quite obviously has the 
appearance of a very late attempt to explain the forgotten original 
meaning. The resemblance between this ceremony and the Cdn 
Parian is striking, and they both occur about the same time. Gerini l 

1 Ge. (2). 


has noticed this resemblance, and identifies ths Ka^tikeya ceremony 
as the Saivite counterpart of the Vais^avite ceremony of Con Parian. 
It was, he considers, a fire festival in agreement, with Kahtikeya's 
legendary birth from fire, corresponding to the celebrations held in 
Southern India on full-moon day of this month, when rice-meal 
buns are made, with a cavity in the centre filled in with ghi and 
provided with a wick which is lit ; at the same time bonfires are kindled 
on the mountain tops in honour of Kahtikeya. Both these ceremonies 
of lamps are, of course, in their present form, of comparatively late 
origin, having presumably been derived from some early Vedic worship 
of Agni, which was in course of time forgotten, but came to be 
interpreted in accordance with the mythology of the later Brahmanic 
gods. This was in turn forgotten in Siam, and in both the Cdn Parian 
and the Kahtikeya Ceremony the respective Vaisnavite and Saivite 
dedications of the two ceremonies were lost,, and the gods were 
worshipped indiscriminately. 

3. Loy Brah Prahdi^ or Ldy Krahddh,, i.e. the floating of lamps at night. 1 

Tnis ceremony is performed twice a year, for the three nights of 
the fourteenth and fifteenth waxing and first waning of the eleventh 
month (AsVina), and again one month later in the twelfth month 
(Karttika). On both these occasions little rafts, made of plantain 
stems and decorated with flags, paper umbrellas, incense sticks, and 
lighted candles, with offerings of food and flowers, are set adrift on 
the river by people living near its banks. Formerly, at least, the 
King himself went down to the royal landing and set a raft adrift 
while all the palace ladies did likewise. These rafts of the royalty and 
nobility were on a more elaborate scale than those of the common 
people, and all exercised their greatest ingenuity in producing the 
most beautiful and original forms, model barges, floating houses, etc. 
When I lived close to the river bank I often watched the making and 
launching of these rafts by the people who dwelt near by, and it 
was always a very pretty sight to see the river at night covered with 
thousands of bobbing lights, on their way out to be swallowed up by 
the sea. 

Neither the Buddhist monks nor Brahman priests play any official 
part in this ceremony ; so it is not easy to trace its origin. For the 
observance of the eleventh month, the people have invented a Buddhist 
significance, the launching of the illuminated rafts being regarded 

1 Sources : BEB., pp. 25 sqq. ; NN., pp. 63 sqq. ; part of NN.'s account was 
translated and published by King Rama IV in the Siam Repository, April, 1869. 


as an act of worship, of the footprint of the Buddha on the sandy 
bank of the Narmada. Bound fish-pies, some of large size, are made 
and partaken of, and the ceremony is celebrated contemporaneously 
with the festival of the ending of the Buddhist retreat. It may thus 
be looked upon sociologically as a means of popular merit-making and 
amusement at this happy season of the year. But there also lingers 
the animistic belief in the propitiation of the spirit or spirits of the 

There is evidence for supposing that the earlier significance of 
both these occasions of lamp-floating was Brahmanic. Gerini 1 has 
suggested that the observance in the eleventh month is the traditional 
continuation of the Hindu Dyuta or Kojagara festival, held at full 
moon in honour of Indra and Lakshmi, when lamps were also lighted ; 
while the observance in the twelfth month is undoubtedly connected 
with the Ka^tikeya- Festival. In support of these probabilities we 
have the evidence of Nan Nabamas*a. She states that there was in her 
time no ceremony of Ldy Krahddn, but she, being the daughter of a 
Brahman, wished to honour the genii of the river in Brahmanical 
fashion. She accordingly made a KraMdn of great beauty and 
elaboration, such as she alone had the skill to make. The King, 
happening to see it, was much struck by its beauty, and was filled 
with the desire to light and launch it. But, as he was an ardent 
supporter of Buddhism, and knowing that it was made by Lady 
Nabama^a with the intention of honouring the Brahmanical deities, 
he had scruples about doing so. However, he overcame his scruples 
by declaring : 

" The property such as pyramids and spires dedicated to Buddha 
on the banks of this river, or his sacred relics, bones, hair, etc., wherever 
they may be in the subterranean regions concealed from the eye, 
under the river, or in places which Buddha has pressed with his feet, 
when moving in his might, or in his natural state, if these prints are 
in this river, or in the ocean which receives the stream of this river, 
all these articles that are suitable offerings to Buddha I reverently 
dedicate to him with this elegantly decorated Krafyddn offering. What- 
ever merit becomes complete by these offerings to Buddha, that merit 
I cheerfully make over to the genii of the river who are venerated by 
Cau Cbm Nabamasa as the owner of the Kratyldn" 

The Bang set adrift the Krakddh, and his example was followed by 
all the courtiers and nobles, and the King ordered that the custom 
should become an annual observance. It was observed regularly during 
the Ayudhya period, and is mentioned by La Loub&re. 2 * In the early 

1 Ge. (2). L. L., p. 48. 


reigns of the Bangkok dynasty it was observed- with great splendour, 
but King Kama IV reduced the expenditure on it. 

We cannot lay much stress on the fidelity of the details in Lady 
Nabama^a's story; but we can take it as evidence of a definite 
tradition that the Ldy Krahddn was first introduced into Siam 
as a Brahinanical ceremony later to be modified in accordance 
with the growth of Buddhism. But, though the Ldy Krahddh 
seems to have been connected with festivals dedicated to the 
later Brahmanic gods in India, it probably grew out of older 
oblations made to the sacred rivers, especially the Ganges, 
and continued down to the present day. And very probably 
the Brahmanic form of the observance was merely grafted on to an 
indigenous Thai animistic worship of the spirit of the river, with which 
their lives were so intimately bound up. And even now, despite the 
teachings of Buddhism, the Spirit of the M&narh or "Mother of 
Waters " is by no means forgotten. 



1. The Worship of the Sacred Bull (Ckavian Brah Go Kin). 1 ' 

This ancient ceremony was once performed in the second month 
(Pausa), but it was discontinued several centuries ago. From the 
account of the ceremony in the KM. we learn that the Sacred White 
Bull (representing Nandi, the mount of Siva), was led out from the 
royal stables, its horns and hoofs adorned with gold ornaments 
decorated with the nine gems, and with golden medallions and tassels 
hanging from its ears. A silk cord was passed through its nostrils, 
and it was tied to a richly ornamented post on a dais two cubits high. 
Gold and silver and silken cloths were heaped under the belly of the 
sacred animal, and it was made to stand facing the north. A sacred 
fire was lit in front of it, and p<n-&rl trays of food were also placed 
before it. It was fed and watered by the King's children from vessels 
of gold. The four chief Brahmans stood at the four corners of the 
dais sacrificing to the sacred fire all through the night. Early in the 
morning the King arrived in procession with ministers bearing the 
various insignia of State, and the Baladeba carrying a tray of parched 
rice. The King carried a golden lotus, and the Queen a silver one. 
The procession circumambulated the Sacred Bull nine times auspicious- 
wise, and after that there was a banquet. The ceremony took place 
within the royal palace enclosure Gerini 2 considers that this festival 
may have originated from the Hindu one of letting loose the sacred 
bull (Vrsotsarga), which was, however, performed on full moon day 
of Karttika, or even in AsVina. 3 The ceremony was probably connected 
with agriculture or the multiplication of cattle, but, at this distance 
of time, and without further evidence, it is impossible to judge its 
sociological value. 

2. Visnu's Sleep. 

The Siamese accounts of ceremonies for the eighth month (Asacjha) 
are almost entirely devoted to the great Buddhist festival of Khau 
Barsd. There are, however, indications that at an early period in 

1 Known only from a description in KM., quoted in BRB. t pp. 68*9 ; not mentioned 
in HV. t the ceremony evidently having been abolished before that was written. 
a Ge. (2). 
3 Paraskara Orhyasutra t lii, 9, in SEE. xxix, p. 353. 



Siamese history there were Brahmanical celebrations in this month 
which have now been almost completely forgotten. It appears that 
the Asa<Jha, or Midsummer, Festival (seventh to fourteenth of the 
waxing) was once known in Siam, and that after this the Brahmans 
began their retreat and fasts. A couple of sentences in NN. 1 indicate 
that there was also a royal Brahmanical ceremony in this month. 
It is stated that in the centre of a pond in the royal temple grounds 
a dais was erected on which the King lay down, and was sprinkled by 
the Brahmans. Gerini 2 identifies this with the day on which Visiiu 
is supposed to commence his four months' sleep on the Milk Sea, and 
which is still celebrated in India by a festival on the eleventh waxing. 
According to this the pond represents the sea, and the dais the serpent 
!esa, Visnu's mythical couch. It is an interesting example of the 
Siamese king's identification with Visiiu, and of his imitating the god's 
actions, for the good of the realm. 

3. jSiva's Night (Sivdratri)? 

This festival was celebrated from very early times in Siam, but 
was discontinued after the fall of Ayudhya. It was, however, revived 
by King Rama IV, but has again fallen into disuse. It occurred on the 
full-moon day of the third month (Magha), and was of course a strictly 
Saivite festival. 

In the evening the High Priest of iva (Brah Mdhd Raja Gru) 
carried out the usual preliminary rites common to all Brahmanic 
ceremonies. He then set up four poles from which was suspended, 
by means of strings, an earthen pot full of water, but with a hole in 
the bottom. Under the pot was placed a stone linga, symbolic of 
Siva, which stood on a base having the form of a yoni, symbolic of 
Uma (Siva's tdkti or cosmic energy). 4 The yoni was provided with 
a spout from which the water which dripped from the pot over the 
linga and ran down into the yoni, was collected in vessels. This went 
on all through the night, and just before dawn the Brahmans cooked 
some rice mixed with honey, sugar, milk, and butter, which was 
distributed and partaken of by all those present. At daybreak they 
all went down to the canals and bathed, and then they returned and 
anpinted their heads with some of the water which had been collected 
from the linga. It was a rite of purification, and the Brahmans 

1 NN. p. 83. * Ge. (2). * BEB., pp. 123 sqq. 

4 This apparatus is still to be seen by the curious amongst the dust-covered lumber 
behind the altar in the Siva temple. The present Head Brahman recently informed 
me that his father had performed the ceremony in days gone by. 


believed that the consecrated water washed away all impurities 
and sins. 

The ceremony was in early times derived from India, where it is 
still practised, but on the fourteenth waning of the same month : 

" At the time of the new-moon in the month of February the 
Lingayats, or followers of Siva, celebrate with great pomp their feast 
Siva-ratri (Night of Siva). This lasts three days, and during the course 
of it the Litigayats wash and purify their Ungam, cover it with a new 
cloth, and offer it sacrifices of a special character. They also visit their 
jangamas or gurus, and present them with gifts." x 

In Siam the festival can hardly be regarded as a royal ceremony ; 
it was rather a ceremony performed by the Brahmans for their own 
benefit. But it was probably fostered by the Siamese kings as the 
means by which the Brahmans purified themselves before performing 
more important ceremonies connected with the welfare of the King 
and the State. 

4. Snana, or Gajendrdsva-sndnam. 2 

This ceremony, which signifies "the sprinkling of the lordly 
elephants and horses ", was carried out twice yearly, in the fifth 
month (Chaitra), and again in the eleventh month (AsVina). It was 
not abolished until the reign of Bang Bama V, but had for some time 
only been performed on a reduced scale, the elephants and horses 
filing in procession past stands from which they were sprinkled with 
lustral water. The ceremony was originally a lustration of arms, 
a general purification of the army, like the Hindu Nwdjand. While 
the sprinkling of the elephants was in progress, the Vrddhi-pasa 
Brahmans (i.e. those in charge of auspicious rites in connection with 
elephants) uncoiled, in the royal elephant warehouses, the ropes and 
nooses stored therein for elephant catching, and performed a hook and 
noose dance in honour of Visnu, simulating the capture of elephants. 
This took place on the third day of the waning. Next morning the 
ropes and nooses were coiled up again and stored away. 

In ancient times Snana was a general review of the army, with 
the object of seeing that all its equipment was kept in proper order 
and efficiency. Ceremonies of this sort are mentioned in the Annals 
of Ayudhyd as being performed prior to the launching of campaigns, 
and must have been of considerable sociological value in keeping up 
the spirits of the soldiers, and inspiring them with confidence in their 
none too trustworthy weapons. 

1 D., p. 568. 

* BRB. t pp. 271 sqq. .ATA 7 ., pp. 73 sqq. ; KM . ; Ge. (2). 


Is I 

5. Top-spinning (Bidhl Gendah or Din Khan). 1 

This Brahmanical ceremony was discontinued several centuries 
ago ; in fact it may have ceased to be performed even before Ayudhya 
was founded, since there is no mention of it in the KM., and it is 
known only from fragmentary descriptions of it in the old Brahmanical 
treatises and in NN. 

Top-spinning was performed in the seventh lunar month (Jyaistha), 
and attracted large crowds of people who were eager to learn the 
fortunes of the realm as foretold by the Brahmans on this occasion. 
Three tops " as large as pumpkins " and made of the nine metals which 
correspond to the nine planets, symbolized the three gods of the Hindu 
triad, and were carried out in procession from the temple of Siva. 
They were spun on a board by means of a silken string of five colours, 
ten cubits long. Omens were drawn from the length of the spin and 
the kind of noise emitted from the tops. If they spun long and 
loudly the Brahmans announced that the glory of the King would 
shine forth over foreign lands, the prosperity and riches of the people 
would increase, and the boundaries of the kingdom would be extended. 
If the contrary occurred, the Brahmans interpreted the omen as 
indicating danger to the realm during the coming year. 

A ceremony, characterized by such extravagant prognostications 
as the above, could only flourish among a conquering and 
unsophisticated people, and was thus well suited to the early Thai. 
But with the stern experiences of military reverses, and the spread 
of the elevating teachings of the Buddha, such soothsaying ceremonies 
were the first to fall into disuse, and are now only found in connection 
with the Ploughing Festival, where, however, the Brahmans confine 
themselves within the more modest limitations of predicting the 
extent of the rice crop. 

6. New Year* 

There are really three Siamese New Year Festivals, which used 
to take up most of the fifth month (Chaitra) but which have now been 
officially combined to be celebrated on the first of April. This date 
is really the civil (modern solar) New Year's Day, introduced in 1889, 
to .fall invariably on 1st April ; but the lunar and astrological (old 
solar) new years, essentially religious, and connected with the old 
calendar adopted from India on the basis of the Saka era reckoning, 
are still used by the Brahmans in the arrangement of their ceremonial 

1 BRB pp. 452 sqq. ; NN., p. 82. 

2 BRB., pp. 133 sqq., 'and Qe. (2). 


calendar, and also celebrated by the masses to whom the new civil 
New Year means nothing. 

Trus, or lunar New Year, is celebrated during three days : the 
fifteenth waning of Phalguna (fourth month) ; the first waxing of 
Chaitra (fifth month) or New Year's Day, and the day following. 
The ceremonies carried out at this period are (1) a general expulsion 
of evil l ; (2) the King pays homage to his ancestors and the people 
hold a popular festival of ancestor worship 2 ; (3) the drinking of the 
water of allegiance takes place on this occasion as at half-year 3 ; 
the ceremony of Sndna used to take place, as it also did at half-year 4 ; 
the Brahmans performed a homam sacrifice as in connection with the 
Coronation. 5 

It will thus be seen that New Year is a time when a number of 
mportant ceremonies take place, all of which have been or will be 
dealt with elsewhere in this book. But there remains one Brahmanical 
rite, the actual rite of changing from the Old to the New Year, which 
may most appropriately be dealt with in this chapter. This rite, 
which is known as Sambacchara-chinda, is performed by the Jiord at 
the same time that the Brahmans are offering their homam sacrifice. 
The rite consists in changing the name of the animal denoting the 
place of the year (Sambdcchara) in the duodenary cycle, after which 
the year is designated, but not the " figure " or serial number of the 
year in the era, the altering of which is to be effected later on Mesa- 
sankrdnti, i.e. at the completion of the astrological (solar) year. 

The Sankrdnti, or astrological (solar) New Year falls on either 
the 12th or the 13th April, the date of the assumed entrance of the 
sun into Aries, according to the traditional local (Hindu-imported) 
reckoning. The day is termed Mahd-sankrdnti day (substantially 
the same as Mesa-sankrdnti), and with it commences a three days' 
festival, the year's serial number in the era being changed on the 
third day, which is actually regarded as New Year's Day (solar). 
This is one of the seventeen occasions in the year on which, according 
to the KM., the King must take a ceremonial bath of purification, 6 
and he afterwards sprinkles the sacred images. Tor the people this 
season is one of much rejoicing and merit-making by washing the 
images in the temples, building hillocks of sand for covering the 
monastery courtyards, sprinkling the monks as an act of respect, 
and making offerings of candles and incense before the images. 

1 See Chap. XXVII. * Chap. XIII. ' C hap. XV. * |>. 297. p. 72. 

Siamese texts refer to these ceremonial baths as murdhabhiseka, literally 
" anointment of the head ", but it has been shown in Chapter VI that the Siamese 
confuse the negative rite of lustration with the positive one of unction. 



The lower one goes in the social scale in Siam, as perhaps in every 
country, the more one finds that superstitions and the belief in the 
existence of spirits who require propitiation come to the fore at the 
expense of the established religion. So it is that in Siam, despite 
the teachings of Buddhism, which especially denounce such beliefs, 
the spirits of the dead and other innumerable varieties of phi, all more 
or less objectionable, make considerable demands on the time of the 
Siamese, at least of the uneducated classes, in order to keep them at 
bay. The Government, as a body, if not individually, is supposed to 
be above such things, especially since it is the official upholder of the 
Buddhist religion, and hence we find that the State affords this vast 
host of phi little recognition, other than ruthlessly to drive them out 
of the city every New Year. There are, however, or were until well 
on in the Bangkok period, certain powerful phi whom even the 
King and the Government could not afford to ignore. It seems 
probable that these genii, together with all the common varieties of 
phi, have survived from a period long anterior to the introduction 
of Buddhism and Hinduism into the country, and may have been 
part of the " original " stock of the early Thai and other races of 
Indo-China. But since these beliefs are so widely spread amongst 
primitive peoples, it is very difficult to say definitely in any particular 
case whether it is indeed indigenous, or has been introduced, say, from 
India, in a more or less Hinduized form ; the fact that a primitive 
belief has been dressed in Hindu garb is, however, no proof that it 
has been imported from India, for we know that wherever Hinduism 
went the Brahmans did their best to canonize whatever of the native 
beliefs they were not powerful enough to suppress. Thus, though it 
is probable that the Brahmans formerly took part in the ceremonies 
connected with spirit-worship, such rites are not to be confounded 
with such purely Brahmanical rites as the sacrificing to the gods and 
demi-gods of the Hindu pantheon, which is a preliminary to most 
Hindu State Ceremonies. 

The details which I have been able to collect with regard to State 
Spirit Worship are unfortunately rather scant, for two reasons: 
(1) because such ceremonies liave almost completely died out, and no 



living person has any memory of them, and (2) because owing to the 
very nature of such primitive rites, there were probably never any 
written records of them ; and early Bangkok kings were not sufficiently 
interested in them to record what was remembered of them by survivors 
from the destruction of Ayudhya. The following comprises such 
information as I have been able to collect on the subject : 

1. Animism. 

I define animism as that primitive belief of the savage, according 
to which every tree, river, and mountain, in short every natural 
feature, especially such as have some special peculiarity such as a very 
large tree or tall mountain, has its guardian spirit, dryad, or goblin. 
This still forms one of the largest classes of phi, which demands the 
respect and propitiation of the Siamese peasants, more particularly 
in the northern part of the country. Probably it is several centuries 
since these ceased to receive the serious attention of Siamese royalty, 
and the only definite record that I can find of it is in no less distinguished 
a document than the famous inscription of King Kama Gamhen, 
as follows : 

" In yonder mountain is a demon-spirit, Brana Khabun, that is 
greater than every other spirit in this realm. If any prince ruling this 
realm of Sukhodaya reverence him well with proper offerings, this 
realm stands firm, this realm prospers. If the spirit be not reverenced 
well, if the offerings be not right, the spirit in the mountain does not 
protect, does not regard; this realm perishes." x 

From this we see that the animism of the early Thai still enjoyed 
the royal protection, despite the fact that the Kings of Sukhodaya 
had adopted much of Khmer Brahmanism and were fervent Buddhists 
as well. But it appears that there was only one spirit who was thought 
worthy of the royal patronage, and it was a mountain spirit. Probably 
ohis class of spirit always enjoyed a pre-eminent position, and may 
have been the earliest type of guardian spirit of a city. It is probable 
that Vat Phukhao Don (Temple of the Golden Mount) at Ayudhya 
was originally a shrine dedicated to the spirit of a mountain, who was 
also the guardian of the city. It was the deva of the Missaka-mountain 
that appeared to King Devanampiyatissa of Ceylon in the form of an 
elk-stag, and led him to Mahinda, the apostle of Buddhism. 2 

Another example of animism in connection with Siamese Kings 
is the belief in the existence of a guardian genie resident in the royal 
nine-tiered umbrella. This idea, as has already been mentioned in an 

1 JSS., vol. vi, pt. ii, p. 29 ; and Coed&s, Inscriptions de Sukhodaya, p. 46. 
* M. xiv, 3. 


earlier chapter, was also present in Burma : in one of the Jdtaka 
reliefs in the Ananda temple at Pagan, the Bodhisattva Temiya is 
depicted on his couch, over which is a single-tiere4 white umbrella, 
from which the goddess is seen issuing in order to give Temiya advice 
not to become king. 1 Similarly in Ceylon, as King Dutt>hagamani 
" thus reflected the Devatd of the parasol observed his thought ". 2 
Evidently, therefore, the idea of the Spirit of the Umbrella in Siam 
has been derived from India. But if the Umbrella were originally 
derived from the tree, I suggest that the genie was originally a tree- 

2. Guardian Spirits of Cities. 

On the verandah of every Siamese house, or in a shady corner of 
the garden, is set up a small wooden "doll's house" on a pole, called 
Sal Brah Bhumi, or " Shrine of the Sacred Grove ", corresponding to 
the Burmese Nat Sin. This is the shrine of the Can Dl (Spirit of the 
Place) and before it the people of the house offer incense sticks, flowers, 
and rice, especially when any domestic crisis, such as the birth of a 
child, is pending. Similar Sal Brah Bhumi are to be seen in every 
street, every field, even in the sacred precincts of the monasteries. 
They are the most tangible evidence of the survival of pure animism 
in Siam to-day ; and the guardian spirits of the city, which still receive 
official sanction, are but a development of the same primitive point 
of view. 

Every city in Siam that ever attained any degree of independence 
boasted its guardian genie, and, for example, when I visited Sukhodaya, 
the ruins of its shrine were pointed out to me. A similar shrine exists 
in Bangkok at the present day, called Sal Cau Hldk Mo* ah, and until 
the year A.D. 1919 there used to be another called Sal Cau Hd Kldn. 
I have personally visited the former, but details concerning the latter * 
I take from Bastian 3 and Graham. 4 The Sal Cau Hldk Mo'an, or 
" Shrine of the Pillar of the Lord of the Country ", is a small brick 
building crowned by a Cambodian prang. In the small and dark 
interior there stands a carved and gilded pillar of wood, draped in red 
cloth. This pillar is the home of the Guardian Spirit of the City, and 
around it are grouped phallic emblems, images of lesser phi, and paper 
votive offerings in piles. A recent visit to the Sal Cau Hldk Mo'an 
(18th December, 1930), supplied the following additional information : 
The person who was sacrificed to make the Cau Hldk Mo' an is buried 
underneath the* post. On one side, leaning against the wall, I noticed 

1 Epigraphia Birmanica, vol. ii, pt. 2, No. 6. 2 M. xxviii, 6. 

8 Reiwn, in Siam, p. 96 aq. ( Siam, ii, pp. 284, 286. 


another post, also draped in red cloth. I was told that it is the post 
of the Cau Hldk Mcfan of Dhanapuri which was removed to this site 
from the short-lived capital on the other side of the river. People 
who are not in good health still come to pay homage before the Cdu 
Hldk Mo' an, and I was told that it is still much respected. Printed 
slips were in readiness to be sold to those who come to ask their 
fortunes. It is also still the custom for a person desirous of obtaining 
a boon such as a rise in salary to make a mental promise beforehand 

to the effect that, should he obtain that which he desires, he will make 

an offering to the Cau Hldk Mo'an. This offering varies from some 

flowers or food placed in the shrine to a theatrical entertainment, and 
the promise is always kept. 

Sal Cau Hd Kldn used to stand near Vat Brah Jetavana, and was 
so called on account of its proximity to the foundations of the former 
Hd Kldn or " Hall of Drums ", which in the early reigns of the present 
dynasty was a tower on the top of which drums were beaten to warn 
the populace in the case of fire or other danger, but which has long since 
disappeared. This shrine was especially dedicated to a guardian 
spirit called Cau Get in the person of a small image dressed in the 
traditional costume of a devatd. Brahmanic influence in this shrine 
was evident in the presence of Brah Kala, the god of death, mounted 
on an owl, and also probably by two images of godlets known as 
Brah Dran Mo'an and Brah So'a Mo'an. But Cau Get was a true 
phi, since he was manufactured by the sacrifice of a suitable individual, 
as also, presumably, was the spirit of the Cau Hldk Mo'an. 
When the Sal Cau Ho Kloh was pulled down in 1919, owing 
to its delapidated condition, Cau Get and his attendant spirits 
were removed to the &al Cau Hldk Mo'an, where both they 
and the Guardian Spirit proper continue to receive offerings. 
But, in the present work, it is the extent of the official recog- 
nition which the Cau Hldk Mo'an receives that is of special 
interest. This manifests itself, or did until recently, in two ways : 
(1) It used to be the custom, at least until A.D 1910, to issue periodical 
invitation cards by royal command, requesting the honour of the 
presence of Cau Get at forthcoming religious ceremonies. Such cards 
were until that year stuck on the door of the shrine. (2) In the oath 
of allegiance taken twice yearly by all officials, the Cau Hldk Mo'an 
is still invoked, and his vengeance called down on any traitor. 

Thus it seems that the Guardian Spirit of the City is by no means 
forgotten, that he still retains a sociological value, and in case of 
national danger no doubt he would come in for a considerably greater 
share of attention, as he did in times past. 


3. Guardian Spirits in Great Guns. 

It appears that one of the guardian spirits of Ayudhya had taken 
up its abode in a big gun, and the following account is interesting as 
showing what great faith was put in the guardian spirit by the king 
and people in time of national danger, this referring to the period 
immediately before the fall of Ayudhya in A.D. 1767. But since it 
comes from a Burmese source, it must be received with caution. 

" Finding that every attempt against the enemy had always resulted 
in failure, the King of Siam ordered that the great gun called Dwara- 
wadi, which had been regarded from ancient times as the guardian 
of the city, should, after the customary propitiatory offerings had 
been made to the presiding spirit, be brought out from the building 
where it had been carefully kept, mounted on the northern wall of 
the city, and fired against the enemy. He also ordered that all the 
inhabitants of the city, both men and women, young and old, should, 
with suitable offerings, propitiate the guardian spirits of the city, 
the country and the weapons. In compliance witK this royal command, 
the great gun was brought out with due ceremony and, with the help 
of mechanical appliances, raised and mounted on the northern wall 
of the city and directed against Nemyo Thihapate's camp. It was then 
loaded with an ample charge of powder and all kinds of shot, such as 
bar-shot, chain-shot, shrapnel, elongated bullets, etc., and fired with 
a fuse. The fuse burned alright, and so did the priming powder, but 
the charge in the gun failed to ignite. Although repeatedly tried, the 
gun failed to discharge its load of shot. So the charge was taken out 
to discover the cause, and to the amazement of the officers and men, 
it was found that the powder had dissolved and the water trickled down 
the mouth of the gun. The Siamese officers were alleged [by the 
Burmese] to have exclaimed that when even the great guardian gun 
of the city, a thing inanimate, had gone over to the side of the King 
of Ava, they who were animate beings, could not but submit." x 

This is probably not an isolated incident of a city's guardian spirit 
residing in a big gun ; indeed, the association of ideas seems obvious. 
It reminds me of the well-known cannon that lies close to the road" 
near Batavia, Java, half -buried in the ground. There is a tradition that 
it will one day be joined by its mate which lies in another part of the 
island, and on that day the rule of Europeans in Java will cease. When 
I saw it a few years ago it was surrounded with heaps of flowers and 
paper offerings, and, like the Can Hldk Mo'ah at Bangkok, was said 
to be particularly revered by barren women. 

4. Foundation Sacrifices. 

Closely allied to the Spirits of the Sal Cau Hldk Mo'ah are the phi, 
whose duty it is to guard the gates of the city, although now they are 

1 JS8., vol. xi, pt. iii, p. 47. Intercourse between Burma and Siam, as recorded 
in Hmannan Yazawindawgyi. 


forgotten and receive no attention, for the gates have disappeared, 
and every Siamese knows that the walls, or what remains of them, 
are no protection to the city. But they are of special interest because 
we have fairly detailed accounts of their installation, whereas there 
seem to be no accounts of the manufacture of Cau Get and the Cau 
HUTc Mo'an. 

Bruguiere gives the following account of the ceremony as 'performed 
in the early days of Bangkok : 

" Whenever a new gate is to be built in the city wall, or an old one 
repaired, three innocent human victims have to be immolated. The 
King secretly sends an officer to the gate about to be repaired ; this 
man has the appearance of wishing to call somebody, and from time 
to time repeats the name to be given to the gate ; which excites the 
attention of passers-by, and they turn their head to see what it is. 
The first three who do so are seized by men stationed for the purpose, 
and their death is irrevocably fixed ; no service, no promise, no 
sacrifice can deliver them. Within the gate is a ditch, and at a certain 
height above it is a great beam ; this beam is hung by two ropes, 
and suspended horizontally almost in the same way as in a wine-press. 
On the appointed day for the sacrifice, a splendid banquet is prepared 
for the three victims, after which they are led in ceremony to the ditch, 
and the king and court come to salute them. The king charges them 
in particular to guard well the gate confided to them, and to give 
notice of the approach of enemies, or rebels to take the city. Instantly 
the ropes are cut, and these victims of superstition are crushed by the 
load that falls on their heads ; the people think that they are trans- 
formed into the genii called phi." 1 

Frazer 2 remarks that the building of human shadows into 
foundations in various parts of Europe is a latter-day modification 
of the foundation sacrifice, and, on the other hand, he cites an even 
more brutal form of the sacrifice than that described by Bruguiere 
as occurring in Bima, a district of the East Indian Island of Sumbawa. 

" when a new flag-pole is set up at the sultan's palace a woman is 
crushed to death under it ; but she must be pregnant. The notion 
may be that the ghost of such a woman would be more than usually 
fierce and vigilant." 3 

From the account of van Vliet, who was in Siam from 1629 to 
1634, it seems that a similar custom was in vogue in Siam during the 
Ayudhya period. He wrote as follows : 

" The kings counted their subjects so little that if palaces, towers 
or resting places had to be built for them, under each post which was 

1 Annales de L' Association de la Propagation de la Foi, v (1831), pp. 164 sq. 

2 OB. iii, pp. 89 sqq. 

3 Ibid., p. 91. 


put into the ground a pregnant woman was thrown and the more near 
this woman was to her time the better. For this reason there was often 
great misery in Judia [Ayudhya] during the time that palaces or 
towers had to be built or repaired. For as all houses in Siam are built 
at a certain height above the ground and stand on wooden posts 
many women have endured this suffering. Although this description 
seems to be fabulous, these executions have really taken place. The 
people,, who are very- superstitious, believe that these women after 
dying turn into terrible monsters or devils, who defend not only the 
post below which they are thrown, but the whole house against 
misfortune. The King usually ordered a few slaves to catch without 
regard all the women who were in a pregnant state. But out of the 
houses no women were taken unless in the streets nobody could be 
found. These women were brought to the queen, who treated them 
as if they were of high birth [cf . " temporary kings "]. After they had 
been there for a few days, they were thrown into the pit with the 
stomach turned upwards. After this the post was put on the stomach, 
and driven right through it." 

He then goes on to say that in 1634 the king renewed seventeen 
gates, for which sixty-eight women were required, but five of them gave 
birth on reaching the palace. This was considered to be a miracle, 
so the king decided to liberate all the women except four. 1 

Though the belief in guardian spirits which led to these human 
sacrifices was extremely widespread, and was probably an outgrowth 
of primitive animism, it seems probable that the Siamese form was 
influenced by India, where such customs were once prevalent. Thus 
in the Takkariya Jdtaka (No. 481) : 

" The chaplain said to the king of Benares at the erection of a 
new city gate, 'My lord, a great gate is possessed and guarded by great 
spirits. A Brahman tawny brown and toothless, of pure blood on both 
sides, must be killed ; his flesh and blood must be offered in worship, 
and his body laid beneath and the gate raised upon it. This will 
bring luck to you and your city/ " 2 

A note on this Jdtaka by Cowell states that the sacrifice was meant 
to propitiate the spirits disturbed by the digging. But I see no 
evidence for this supposition, at least in the Siamese rite. It seems 
quite clear that the victims were themselves more or less deified ; 
they were feasted before execution and propitiated afterwards ; they 
were not offered as sacrifices to any other spirits. The custom also 
nourished in Burma. " Tepathin, guardian spirit of the city-gate of 
Pagan " is mentioned in the Glass Palace Chronicle? and the Sarabha 
Gateway is guarded by two figures in niches, one on each side, and, as 

1 JS8. vii, i, pp. 18-20. 2 Jatakas, Cowell's edition, iv, p. 155. 

8 Trans, of Tin and Luce, p. 16. 


I noticed when I visited Pagan in 1929, they are still reverenced by 

the people of the neighbourhood. 

" Their origin is obscure, but they are said to represent the Popa 
Maungdaw and Hnamadaw, brother and sister Nats of Popa Hill " * ; 

but I suggest that they represent the spirits of gate-guardians manu- 
factured in the usual way. At the founding- of Mandalay the proper 
sacrifices were supposed to have been carried out, but evidently Thibaw, 
who thought nothing of wholesale murder, had his doubts as to 
whether the kind-hearted King Mindon had performed the work 
thoroughly. He therefore meditated the immolation of several 
hundred victims and was only restrained by fear of the effect it might 
have on the British. But it is quite clear that he was not thinking of 
propitiating the spirits of the soil, but was desirous of strengthening 
the city's spiritual defences. There was in Burma a special annual 
ceremony called P&ya Pwe, or Feast of the Shrines, in which royal 
offerings were sent to the shrines of the nats, and to the city gate 
guardians. 2 

It is indeed amazing that such barbarous customs could have 
existed in Siam as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
and in Burma until the extinction of the monarchy two countries 
in which the religion of the Buddha was pre-eminent and where to kill 
an insect was accounted a sin. Yet such is the force of tradition, 
that it needed the adverse expression of foreign opinion to bring 
about the abandonment of these rites. They formed no part of 
Siam's true religion, but held her, as it were, in a vice ; and their 
abolition is one of those changes for the better which Siam owes to 
contact with the West. 

1 Taw Sein Ko, Archaeological Notes on Pagan, p. 16. 

2 ERE. art. " Burma ". 



In The Golden Bough 1 Sir James Frazer has noted several features 
characteristic of the Expulsion of Evil, wherever ceremonies to that 
end are practised ; and we shall see that these features are not wanting 
in Siam. In the first place, there are two methods of Expulsion the 
immediate and the mediate which are identical in intention, that 
intention being the total clearance of all the ills that have been 
infesting a people. In both cases the evils are considered as invisible 
and intangible, but in the former case they are directly expelled, while 
in the latter a material vehicle is used a boat, a litter, or a human 

In the second place, a general clearance is resorted to periodically, 
the interval between the celebrations is commonly a year, and the 
time of year when the ceremony takes place usually coincides with 
some well-marked change of season in Siam the beginning of the rainy 
season, when cholera frequently begins its ravages and the expulsion 
of the demons gives the people some degree of confidence in the future 
In Siam, as in many other countries, the annual expulsion marks the 
New Year. 

Thirdly, this period is frequently marked by unusual licence. In 
Siam this takes the mild form of a certain amount of popular amuse- 
ment and joviality, and a feast of ancestors. 

The last two of Frazer' s generalizations apply more particularly 
to the General Expulsion of Evil which takes place at the Siamese 
New Year, but the present chapter will be a suitable place in which 
to discuss also certain more specialized forms of the Expulsion of Evil 1 
or Exorcism, most of which are now almost or quite extinct in Siam 
and about which very little information is obtainable. 

1. The General Expulsion of Evil at New Year. 2 

This is an example of the immediate Expulsion of Evil, and the 
rites are really extremely primitive, although overlaid with Buddhist 
modifications. The ceremony of freeing the palace and city from 
evil spirits takes place at Trus (lunar new-year). Chapters of Buddhist 
monks draw the sacred sincana thread round the various buildings 
of the Koyal Residence, round the palace walls and, formerly, round 
the city wall. Seated within the palace enclosure and, formerly, in 

1 OB. ix, chapter v. a BRB. t pp. 133 sqq. ; NN. 9 p. 71 sq. ; Ge. (2). 



the centre of the city, at the eight gates and in the forts on the city 
walls, they recite an uncanonical compilation known as Atdndtiya 
Sutra, believed to be of great efficacy in the expulsion of demons. 
Guns are also fired at various points within the palace and city, with 
the object of frightening away all evil spirits. This firing is called 
yin pu'n dtdnd, i.e. firing to drive away evil. In earlier times the 
function of the guns was performed by gongs. 

There are also popular celebrations at this season. The people carry 
protective rings of unspun cotton thread on their heads, and threads 
of the same material around their shoulders, so as to be freed of evil 
influences on New Year's Day. The monks are also invited to the 
people's houses, where they free the premises from evil by means of 
their recitations, and are afterwards entertained with food. There 
is much rejoicing and popular amusement at this season, as is usual 
in most parts of on occasions when people believe themselves 
freed from evil influences. As long as such beliefs remain in Siam, 
the ceremony will retain its functional value as affording periodical 
relief from the mental stress and worry of everyday life. 

2. The Public Scapegoat. 

Though I have not been able to obtain corroborative evidence from 
any Siamese source, it would appear from the following passage that 
the idea of the mediate Expulsion of Evil by its transference to a 
human Scapegoat was practised in Siam in the seventeenth century, 
presumably in connection with New Year. 

" There is one day in the year, in which they practise a ceremony, 
somewhat resembling that of the Scape-goat, which was customary 
among the Jews. They single out a woman broken down by debauchery 
and carry her on a litter through all the streets to the sound of drums 
and hautboys. The mob insult her and pelt her with dirt ; after having 
sufficiently exposed her through the whole city, they throw her on a 
dung hill, and sometimes on a hedge of thorns, without the ramparts, 
forbidding her to enter them again. This inhuman and superstitious 
ceremony is founded on the belief that this woman thus draws upon 
her all the malign influences of the air and of evil spirits." 1 

We have already seen that the idea of the Scapegoat was known 
in Siam in a specialized form with regard to the institution known as 
" temporary kings ". The Public Scapegoat would not, therefore, seem 
entirely incompatible with Siamese custom. 

3. The Expulsion of Disease. 

In May, 1820, an epidemic of cholera broke out, which was one 
of the worst recorded in the history of Siam : 

1 Translation of Turpin's History of Siam, chapter 3, in Pinkerton's Travels, 
vol. ix, p. 579. 


" Corpses which there was no time to burn were heaped up in the 
monastery * like stacks of timber ' or else left to float about in the river 
and the canals. The people fled in a panic from the capital ; the 
monks deserted the monasteries, and the whole machinery of govern- 
ment was at a standstill. The king even released the royal guard from 
; their duties in the palace. There were great ceremonies of propitia- 
tion ; the Emerald Buddha and the precious relics kept in the 
monasteries were taken out in procession through the streets, and on 
the canals of the city, attended by high dignitaries of the Church who 
scattered consecrated sand and water. The king and the members 
of the royal family maintained a rigorous fast. The slaughter of 
animals was completely forbidden, and the king caused all supplies 
of fish, bipeds, and quadrupeds, offered for sale, to be bought up in 
order that they might be liberated. All criminals, except the Burmese 
prisoners of war, were released from prison. The scourge abated at last 
after taking 30,000 victims within a few months." l 

This appears to be an example of magical methods having given 
way to religious ones. The prayer and carrying round of the sacred 
images probably replaced an earlier observance in which the cholera 
demon was driven from the city, perhaps encased in some material 

The above occasion is mentioned by King Rama V in BRB., 2 
where he states that the three images carried about, each in a separate 
procession, were the Emerald Buddha, the Lord of Victory (Brah Jaya), 
and Brah Ham Samud (Buddha in the attitude of calming the ocean) . 
He also states that the people were divided in their opinion as to 
whether the scourge was caused by the machinations of evil spirits 
or whether it was brought about by the Buddha's anger. He wishes 
that the people would realize that diseases are caused by specific germs, 
and states that the ceremony may be considered as abolished. His 
desires have been vigorously followed up by the propaganda of the 
Department of Public Health, to some extent with success, though 
not to the exclusion of private magical observances, which are still 
more to the taste of the superstitious masses than is any amount 
of vaccine. 

4. A Ceremony of Palace Exorcism. 

I translate the following curious passage from the KM. : "If any 
persons quarrel and stab each other so that blood is shed within the 
preoincts of the royal palace; or if a female slave should have a 
miscarriage in the palace, propitiatory offerings must be made to the 
gods. Ceremonial pavilions must be erected at each of the four gates 
and p<n-sns with offerings placed under the gates. The sacred thread 

1 K. Lingat, " History of Vat Mahadhatu " in JSS., vol. xxiv, pt. 1, 1930, p. 14. 
a BRB., pp. 158 sqq. 


must be passed round the palace. A chapter of monks must be invited 
to recite stanzas for three days. The Brahmans must come and offer 
sacrifices to the. guardian genii (bahlikarm bvan svaii) in accordance 
with custom. Let there be dancing (rahpdm), binbddya bands with 
gong and drum, and orchestral music (turiyatantn), and lanterns 
lighted at the four gates. When the ceremony is finished the foetus 
must be carried out of the city and cast away. Thus is the* evil omen 
averted and the city saved from calamity." 

The casting away of the foetus is, of course, an example of the 
mediate Expulsion of Evil, the foetus being regarded as the vehicle 
of the evil. 

5. A Royal Exorcism. 

No doubt there were, formerly, in Siam as in Cambodia, specially 
prescribed Brahmanical and Buddhist rites for the exorcism of any 
evil spirit, especially one of disease, which was believed to have taken 
possession of the King or any member of the royal family. I cannot 
find any Siamese record of such rites, however, but think it may be of 
interest to quote Mrs. Leonowcna' account, for she was probably the 
only European who has ever had the opportunity of witnessing such 
a ceremony. However, her story must be taken with the utmost reserve 
and full allowance for missionary bias and untrained powers of observa- 
tion. The events which she relates refer to the occasion on which an 
unfortunate slave-girl, named "May-Peah", who had liberated her 
mistress from the harem, was put on trial for the offence. In order 
that she should not be persuaded to betray her accomplices she had 
heroically cut out her tongue, and so was unable to speak. 1 She was 
about to be put to the torture when an old and respected yogi who was 
present announced that in his opinion she was not to blame, since she 
was possessed by an evil spirit, and should be exorcized. 

Let her bo exorcized ' said the Chief Judge of the Supreme 
Court, whose secretary was making minutes of all that took place 
during the trial. On which the queerest-looking woman of the party, 
an old and toothless dame, drew out a key from her girdle and opened 
some wooden boxes from which she took a small boat a sort of 
coracle a long grey veil of singular texture, an earthen stove, whereon 
to kindle a charcoal fire, and some charcoal ; out of the second box 
she produced some herbs, pieces of flint, cast skins of snakes, feathers, 
the hair of various animals, with dead men's bones, short brooms^and 
a host of other queer things. With the charcoal the old woman pro- 
ceeded to light a fire in her earthen stove ; when it was red-hot she 

1 In support of Mrs. Leonowen's story, or at least, as evidence that such things 
are done in Bangkok, we have the following incident recorded in the Bangkok Times 
for 27th April, 1931 : " A Chinese woman took a pair of scissors and clipped off her 
own tongue with them at a Chinese boarding-house on Friday evening." 


opened several jars of water, and, muttering some, strange incantations, 
threw into them portions of her herbs, repeating over each a mystic 
spell, and waving a curious wand which looked like a human bone, and 
might have been once the arm of a stalwart man.* This done, she 
seated the prisoner in the midst of the motley group, covered her over 
with the veil of grey stuff, and handing the short hand-brooms to a 
number of her set, she, to my intense horror, began to pour the burning 
charcoal over the veiled form of the prisoner, which the other women, 
dancing around, and repeating with the wildest gestures the name of 
Brahma, as rapidly swept off. This was done without even singeing 
the veil or burning a hair of May-Peah's head. After this they emptied 
the jars of water upon her, still repeating the name of Brahma. She 
was then made to change her clothes for an entirely new dress, of the 
Brahminical fashion. Her dressing and undressing were effected with 
great skill, without disclosing her person in the least. And once 
more the yogi laid his hands upon her shoulders, and whispered again 
in her ears, first the right, and then the left. But May-Peah returned 
the same intimation, shaking her head and pointing to her sealed lips. 
Then the old wizard, Khoon-P'hikhat literally, the lord who drives out 
the devil prostrated himself before her, and prayed with a wild 
energy of manner ; and, rising suddenly, he peremptorily demanded, 
looking full in the prisoner's face, * Where did you drop the bunch of 
keys ? * The glaring daylight illuminated with a pale lustre the fine 
face of the Laotian slave, as for the third time she moved her head, in 
solemn intimation that she could not or would not speak. To see her 
thus, no one would believe but that, if she willed, she could speak at 
once. * Open her mouth and pour some of the magic water into it,' 
suggested one of the ' wise women '. But they who opened her mouth 
fell back with horror, and cried, ' Brahma, Brahma ! an evil fiend has 
torn out her tongue.' And immediately the unhappy woman passed 
from being an object of fear and dread to one of tender commiseration, 
of pity, and even of adoration. So sudden was the transition from 
fear and hate to love and pity, that many of the strong men and women 
wept outright at the thought of the dreadful mutilation that the fiend 
had subjected her to. Now came the last and most important question, 
* Was the exorcism effectual ? ' To prove which a small taper was 
lighted and put into the witches' boat ; and the whole company betook 
themselves to the border of the stream to see it launched. The boat 
swept gallantly down the waters, and the feeble lamp burned brightly, 
without even a flicker for it was a calm day till it was brought to 
a stand by some stones that were strewn across the stream. Then the 
yogi raised a shout of wild delight, and all the company re-echoed it 
with intense satisfaction and pleasure. And, in accordance with the 
king's instructions, being acquitted of any complicity with the devil 
in the abduction of the princess, the prisoners received each a sum 
of money, and were set at liberty." x 

The significance of the boat is obviously that it is a vehicle for the 
expulsion of the evil, one of the most obvious vehicles for such a 
purpose that w6uld occur to a riverine people accustomed to cast 
all their refuse into the water. 

1 Leonowens, Romance of Siamese Harem Life, pp. 197 sqq. 




Since the various Siamese State Ceremonies have as far as possible 
each been made the subject of a separate and self-contained study, 
it will only be necessary here to draw together certain threads which 
run throughout the book, and to give a summary of the chief conclusions 
at which it has been possible to arrive. 

We have seen that the evolution of the State Ceremonies bears out, 
in the main, what is known of the history of Siamese Culture as a 
whole as based upon the results obtained from the study of the 
inscriptions and chronicles of Siam and the neighbouring countries, 
of which a summary was given in Chapter II. Here and there we 
can detect what appear to be survivals of the primitive stock of culture 
possessed by the early Thai nomads, e.g. the placing of a gold ring in 
the mouth of the dead king ; the TcJivdn spirit of the tonsurate, perhaps 
a very early conception of the soul ; the propitiation of spirits, 
especially the guardian spirits of mountains ; and the cult of white 
animals, particularly the white elephant ; while many of the Agri- 
cultural Ceremonies were probably grafted on to primitive animistic 
and magical rites practised by the early Thai. But it is perhaps 
impossible to say with absolute certainty whether any apparently 
primitive feature is in fact purely Thai, or whether it was one of the 
more primitive beliefs introduced in later times from China or India. 

The first foreign influence brought to bear on the early Thai culture 
was Chinese, though it can now hardly be said to survive in connection 
with any Ceremony, with the possible exception of the First Ploughing. 
Early Chinese influence was undoubtedly swamped by influences from 
India many centuries ago, and in later times China has left her mark 
only on the etiquette connected with the Reception of Embassies. 

Indian influences reached Siam to some extent directly, but they 
came mainly by way of the earlier Indianized kingdoms of Dvaravati, 
$rlvijaya, and Cambodia. Little is at present known as to the nature 
and extent of the influences of the first two kingdoms, but there can 
be no doubt that the Brahmanism which forms the basis of most of 
the Siamese Royal Ceremonies was derived from Cambodia, where 
similar Brahmanic ceremonies are performed to this day. Though 
Peguan Buddhism had reached the neighbouring Lao State of Lambun 
and become the established religion there at least a century before 
the Thai threw off the yoke at Sukhodaya, it is doubtful if Hinayanism 



became definitely established at Sukhodaya before the thirteenth 
century, when missions were received from Ceylon. From that 
period dates the introduction of the great Buddhist .festivals like the 
Kathina, but royal ceremonial remained predominantly Hindu, since 
the Thai rulers sought to imitate the splendour of their former Khmer 
suzerains. Even as late as the second half of the seventeenth century 
there wad a Siamese King of Ayudhya (Narayana, 1656-84), who is 
known to have favoured Brahmanism. On the whole, however, the 
trend of development was in favour of Buddhism, which culminated 
in the reign of King Rama IV (1851-68), with the addition of Buddhist 
modifications to nearly every State Ceremony. I have characterized 
these Buddhist modifications as late, because most of them seem to 
have appeared in Siam only in fairly recent times, and this was because 
the Siamese for centuries modelled most of their royal ceremonial on 
that of the ancient Khmers. But many of the. ideas contained in 
these later Buddhist modifications are extremely ancient and were 
probably introduced in imitation of the forms in use amongst the 
early Buddhist kings of Ceylon. 

In studying the Siamese State Ceremonies we have frequently been 
brought in contact with important phenomena of wide application 
and great general interest. In the first place, we have made a close 
study of the Siamese conception of the Divine Kingship, have noted 
the taboos with which it is hedged around, and have seen how function- 
ally important is the institution in the social life of the Siamese people. 
We have often seen the King performing his divine or priestly functions, 
and in one ceremony at least (the Speeding of the Outflow) we have 
seen him acting in his more primitive role as magician. Lastly, we 
have considered the King as protector of the people's religion, on the 
occasion on which he confers the Kathina gifts on the Buddhist 
priesthood. < 

A generalization of considerable importance is the theory that 
the Ceremonies of Coronation, Investiture of the Queen, Tonsure, 
and Cremation are all derived from some earlier Installation Ceremony. 
This theory is particularly interesting with regard to the Cremation, 
since it appears to throw light on the significance of many apparently 
incongruous rites. 

.The theory of " Temporary Kings " has been considerably 
elaborated in this work. It has been shown by comparative methods 
that a series of stages can be traced in which the King first performed 
his magical arid divine functions in person, afterwards retiring in 
favour of an appointed substitute when the belief had arisen that 
such duties were dangerous to the monarch. Finally, when this 


belief has been forgotten, a stage is reached at which the King resumes 
his early functions. 

A characteristic of Siamese State Ceremonies, which is brought 
out most clearly in the section dealing with the Ceremonies Relating 
to Agriculture, is the fact that one rarely has to deal with a single 
ceremony performed with a single object in view, but rather with a 
series of superimposed rites, the objects of 'which have often been 
forgotten or confused. This is more particularly to be found in the 
older ceremonies, and in none more than in the Swinging Festival, the 
elucidation of which presented one of the most complicated but also 
one of the most interesting problems in the whole work. I also believe 
that it is a matter of some importance to have been able to place on 
record from personal observation an account of the complex and little 
understood ritual of the Court Brahmans in connection with the 
Swinging Festival, and the accompanying Reception of the Gods. 
This ritual may be abolished at any moment, following which the 
opportunity for studying it at first hand will have gone for ever. 

With reference to the ultimate derivation of most of the Siamese 
State Ceremonies from India it is satisfactory to note that it has been 
possible to trace the more important features in nearly every ceremony 
back to their Indian prototypes. In most cases this result seems to 
have been achieved with reasonable certainty, so that I feel confident 
that the light of further knowledge is more likely to strengthen than 
to destroy most of the theories that have been built up in the course of 
this work. In most of the ceremonies, however, fuller knowledge 
is very much to be desired, and there are many gaps which require 
to be bridged. Only in the Coronation are we possessed of anything 
like the amount of evidence which we should like to have in the case 
of every ceremony, and which, in the Coronation, enables us to trace 
back many ideas step by step to very ancient times. 

Turning now to the sociological aspect of the work, I think that 
it has been made quite clear that most of the Siamese State Ceremonies 
still retain very considerable importance in connection with the 
maintenance of the social integrity of the State. The chief function 
now performed by State Ceremonial is the preservation of the popular 
respect for ancient tradition, particularly with reference to the Absolute 
Monarchy. The Siamese are as yet quite unsuited to any other form 
of government, and, were the abolition of the kingship to come about 
in the near future, the whole social fabric of Siam would undoubtedly 
collapse like a house of cards. As has been frequently pointed out in 
the course of this book, it is the brighter side of Court Ceremonial, the 
pageantry of the royal Kafhina processions, and the splendour of the 


Coronation, which most impress the minds of. the masses, and any 
attempt to curtail the traditional glamour surrounding the Divine 
Kingship is bound to react unfavourably on the established form of 
government. But though this is the chief, it is not the only type of 
functional value that the State Ceremonies retain. A large section 
of this work has been devoted to the numerous Agricultural Ceremonies 
of the Siamese, and it i's natural that a people whose welfare depends 
so largely on the abundance of the rice crop should have paid so much 
attention to the elaboration of ceremonies of this type. Some of these 
ceremonies, especially the First Ploughing, may almost be said to 
retain their former functional value in full, in enabling thousands of 
superstitious farmers to set about their agricultural operations with 
confidence that their efforts will be rewarded. Again, it may be said 
that belief in the power of spirits remains unabated with a large section 
of the population who still turn to them, and to the half-forgotten 
Hindu gods for help in worldly matters which they cannot expect 
from Buddhism. More particularly is the Can Hldk Mo'an, or Guardian 
Spirit of the City, not forgotten, and I doubt not but that the exclusion 
of his name from the Oath of Allegiance might have an adverse effect 
on the loyalty of some of the less worthy of the King's servants. 

Finally, I should like to call attention to what seems to me to be 
a bright omen for the future prosperity of Siam. While many of the 
old ceremonies have been abolished or curtailed, it is only fair to 
mention that there has, in recent years, been a tendency for those in 
power to continue to cater for the Siamese populace's unflagging desire 
for pageantry and ceremonial display. Thus many new observances 
have crept in to fill the places of those which have lost their significance. 
The process was begun by King Kama IV when he instituted the 
King's Birthday and Coronation Anniversary celebrations. Now we 
have the Trooping of the Colour, and Degree Day at the University , 
on both of which occasions a chapter of monks is in attendance to chant 
stanzas of victory ; while, when the King anoints a new gunboat, it is 
something more than the European custom of breaking a bottle of 
champagne. Naturally these rites are mainly Buddhist, but, however 
much we may regret from a historical point of view the passing of 
Brahmanism, it cannot but be admitted that this bringing into line 
of the national religion with the modern State Ceremonies of a pro- 
gressive people is sociologically sound, and augurs well for Siam's 
future. With the growth of education the change to a democratic 
form of government is certain to come sooner or later, and the beneficent 
influence of Buddhism manifested in every Ceremony of State will 
probably do much to mollify the dangers of the period of transition. 


AbJiiseka (anointment) of kings, 70, 

74, 76, 79, 121 ; of queens, 

116-18 ; of tonsurate, 130, 131 ; 

of images, 253-4 ; of white 

elephant, 276. 
Ablution, 184 (and see Bath, 


Absolutism of the monarchy, 24. 
Address, modes of, 40. 
Agni Purana, cited, 107. 
Agrayana feasts, 236. 
Agrayaneshti, 229, 236. 
Agriculture, Minister of (see 


Aitareya-AranyaJca, cited, 244 fn. 
Aitareya Brahmana, cited, 80, 81, 

83, 95, 121. 
Amazons, 47, 109. 
Ambassadors (see Embassies, recep- | 

tion of). 
Ancestors, homage to, 30, 90, 

Animals, mythical, of the Hima- 

phan, 128, 150, 167-8. 
Animism, 301. 
Arikor bas-reliefs, 59, 93, 96, 100, 

109, 110, 111, 113, 115, 149, 150, 
^ 185, 191, 277. 
Anniversaries, royal, 213-17. 
Anointment (see Abhieka). 
Antagada Dasao, cited, 75, 77 fn., 


Anthem, National, 6. 
Apsaras, as figure head, 114. 
Army, purification of, 297. 
Asadha festival, 296. 
Ashes, disposal of, after cremation, 


A6oka, missions of, 12. 
Astrologer (see Horn). 
Asuras, 122. 

Atharva Veda, rejected by Siamese, 

Audience, general, at coronation, 

88-9 ; to palace ladies, 89 ; 

special, 90; State, 177-86; to 

officials and petitioners, 187-92. 
Ayudhya, foundation of, 14. 

Bakus, 60, 61. 

Baladeba (Minister of Agriculture), 
22, 199, 239, 256-9, 263, 295. 

Bali, 113, 122. 

Barges, royal, 33, 111-15, 203. 

Bath, ceremonial, of kings, 74, 216, 
239, 299 ; confused with anoint- 
ment, 76 ; of queen, 118 ; of 
tonsurate, 128, 130; of royal 
corpse, 139 ; of Brahmans, 248. 

Bell, audience, 190 ; in Brahmanic 
ritual, 249-53. 

Betel Nut Set (regalia), 83, 101. 

Birthday, King's, 215-17. 

Blood of royal persons tabooed, 

Boat, as vehicle for expulsion of 
evil, 312. 

Bodhisattva, king regarded as, 31, 

Bodyguard, Eoyal (Tamrvac), 110. 

Brahma, 129, 148, 149, 228, 229. 

Brahmans, Cambodian, 58-60. 

Brahmans, Indian, 57-8 ; duties 
of, 61. 

Brahmans, Siamese, dress of, 54 ; 
sects of, 54 ; temples of, 54 ; 
distribution of, 57 ; books of, 
55, 63 ; initiation of, 57 ; origin 
of, 61 ; hair loosened as sign of 
mourning, 149 ; ritual of, at 
Swinging Festival, 247-53. 

Bmh-pada, 200. 




Brihaspati, cited, 196. 

Buddha, " Emerald," 71, 89, 310. 

Buddha, image of, " calling down 
rain," 223-4 ; image of, " calm- 
ing the ocean," 226, 310. 

Buddha, life of, Siamese version 
cited, 49,. 87, 97, 224 ; Burmese 
version cited, 117 ; Sinhalese 
version cited (see Niddna-kathd 
and Mahd-Parinibbdna Sutta). 

Buddhist Eeligion, King's accept- 
ance of the Headship of, 89. 

Buddhist ritual, 54 fn. 

Buddhist sects in Siam, 91, 216. 

Buddhist services of benediction, 
73, 77, 84, 87, 213, 216. 

Bull, sacred, worship of, 295. 

Burma, Siamese intercourse with, 
15, 19-20. 

Cakravartin, king regarded as, 31 ; 

cremation of, 156. 
CakriDay, 171. 
Cakri Dynasty, 15, 17. 
Cambodia, influence of, 13-15. 
Candle of Victory, 73, 216. 
Candles, in Brahmanic ritual, 


Cars, funeral, 149-50. 
Ceylon, religious intercourse with, 

14, 15, 19, 186. 
Chank (see Conch). 
Chargers, royal, 88, 109. 
Chdtra Mangala, 213-15. 
Cheou Ta-kouan, 56, 101, 109, 113, 

160, 170, 185, 188, 191. 
Chignon, Brahmanic, 54, 59, 96. 
Children, royal, not allowed to 

remain in palace, 40. 
China, intercourse with, 15, 18, 182. 
Chinese rites at Royal Cremation, 

Circumambulation, pradaksina, 

102 fn., 107, 131, 199, 202, 222 ; 

prasavya, 153 , 154. 
Cities, guardian spirits of (see 


Cocoa-nut water, used for bathing 

royal remains, 147, 157. 
Cocoa-nuts, thrown to drowning 

royalty, 33. 
Command, first, of crowned king, 


Conch, 72 and fn. 
Concubines (see Harem). 
Con Parian, 288-90. 
Consecration ceremonies compared, 


Cord, Brahmanic, 249. 
| Corn, spirits of the, 233, 235. 
; Coronation, Ceremony of Actual, 

82-7 ; Anniversary of, 213-15. 
; Corpse, royal, bathing and adorning 

the, 139-40 ; preparation of, for 

burning, 147. 
Cremation, history of, 155-62 ; 

function of, 165-7. 
Crow, white, 287. 
Crowns, royal, 83, 95-8, 129, 140 ; 

of white elephant, 277. 
Cujalankarana Day, 172. 

Damaru, 77 fn. 

Dance, d&nvisai, 121 ; at Cam- 
bodian rain-making ceremony, 
227 ; circular, at Swinging 
Festival, 242, 244 ; for exorcism, 

Darbha grass, 78, 83, 250. 

Days, auspicious, for First Plough- 
ing, 256. 

Deification of kings (see Kingship, 

Deva-raja (Royal God) Cult, 29, 59, 
86, 169, 170. 

Dhdnya-daha, 228-31. 

Dharmaraja I, King, 14, 16, 60, 
85, 98. 

Dhanapurl, 15, 17. 

Diffusion, theory of, 4. 

Dipawali (see Diwali). 

Directions, eight, worship of the, 72. 

Disease, expulsion of, 309-10. 

Ditoali, 289. 



Dogs, corpses offered to, 159, 160. 

Draii Dharma, King, 16, 57. 

Dress, of Brtfhmans, 54 ; of kings, 
77 * of queens, 117 ; of tonsurate, 
129 ; of royal corpse, 139 ; of 
Buddhist monks, 208-9. 

Dvaravatl, 13, 18. 

Dyuta festival, 293. 

Earth, Goddess of, 87, 109, 250, 257. 

East, quarter faced by king at 
coronation, 79. 

Elephants as rain-makers, 223, 284. 

Elephants, sprinkling of (see 

Elephant, White, a royal ratna, 88 ; 
whisk of tail of, 83, 100, 119 ; at 
Kathina, 207 ; reception of, 
274-5, 278 ; anointment of, 275 ; 
naming of, 275, 276 ; accoutre- 
ments of, 276-7 ; in reign of 
Rama IV, 278-9 ; eulogy recited 
to, 279 ; in seventeenth century, 
280-2 ; cremation of, 282-3 ; 
omens drawn from, 273, 284 ; 
a cause of war, 282 ; significance 
and history of the cult of, 284- 1 . 

Embassies, reception of, 177-86. 

Eunuchs, 50. 

Evil, expulsion of, 308-12. 

Execution of royal persons, 37-8. 

Exorcism, palace, 310-11 ; royal, 
31 1-12. 

Fan, 83, 100, 110,226. 

Fiftieth day rites, 143. 

Figwood (udwnbam), 78, 81, 102. 

Fire, sacred, for cremation, 144, 

150, 153. 

Fire sacrifices (see Homo). 
Fireworks, 147, 172, 210, 251, 254. 
Flowers, gold and silver, scattered, 


Flowers, in ritual, 249. 
Food, taboos relating to, 37 ; 

offered at lying-in-state, 142. 
Footprint, sacred (see Brah-pada). 

Fruit offerings in Brahmanic ritual, 
249, 254. 

Fruits, First, festivals of, 228-37. 

Functional method of social anthro- 
pology, 3, 5, 7. 

Functions, magical, priestly or 
divine, erf kings (see King). 

Gantlharvaft, 110. 

Ganesa, temple of, 54, 55 ; ritual 

in temple of, 250 ; image of, 

borne in procession, 77, 251 ; 

tonsure of, 127. 

Gangil, at Swinging Festival, 250. 
Garuda, 88, 110, 113, 287. 
Gems, the Triple, 78 ; Girdle of 

the Nine, 83, 101 ; Ring of the 

Nine, 130. 

Ghosts (see phi, and pretas). 
Girdle, Brahman, 83, 86, 101 ; of 

the Nine Gems, 83, 101. 
Gldn, Brah (Minister of Commerce 

and Foreign Affairs), 22, 181-4, 


Glory, Buddhist (see Sirofama). 
God, eating the, 235. 
Gods, doing violence to the, 223 ; 

reception of the, 238-47. 
Grains, roasted, scattered, 77, 129, 

Ground, king not supposed to 

touch, 36. 
Gru, BraJit Mahd Raja (High Priest 

of Siva), 72, 74, 77, 83, 248-55, 

257, 296. 
Grus (pandits), 199 ; (deceased 

spiritual professors), 233-4. 
Guns, fired at coronation, 77 ; fired 

at cremation, 141, 153 ; fired to 

expel evil, 309 ; guardian spirits 

in (see Spirits). 

Hair, tabooed, 32-34 ; modes of 

dressing, 54, 59, 96, 97, 149. 
Hair-cutting of kings, 34. 
Hansa, as figure-head, 114 ; in 

ritual, 252-4. 



Hanuman, 110, 113, 287. 

Harem, constitution of, 46-9 ; 
function of, 49-52. 

Harihara, images of, 54-5. 

Hat, royal.. 89, 98. 

Head tabooed, 32-4. 

Hmayanism, introduction of, 13. 

Hinayanistic conception of king- 
ship, 31. 

Historical method, 3. 

Holi festival, 245-6. 

Homa, 72. 

Horn, 44, 62, 102, 129, 199, 299. 

Horoscope, royal, inscription of, 

House warming, 118-20. 

Hundredth day rites, 143, 161. 

Illumination of Bangkok, 217. 

Independent origins, theory of, 4. 

India, cultural influence of, 18-19. 

Indra, 122, 123, 129, 134, 146, 148, 
149, 228, 229, 230. 

IwdrabhiseJca, 80, 121-3. 

Initiation of Brahmans, 57 ; of 
princes (see Tonsure). 

Inscriptions, 7. 

Insignia, of officials, 22 ; of 
tonsurate, 131, 144 ; of 
temporary king, 240, 256. 

Installation, ceremonies of, com- 
pared, 123-5, 133-5, 163-5. 

Investigation, methods of, 3. 

.Japanese in Siam, 208. 

JataJcas, cited, 76, 93, 94, 95, 99, 

100, 101, 103, 107, 116, 284, 285, 

286, 302, 306. 

Kahtikeya Festival, 290-2. 
Kailasa, Mount, 31, 61, 71, 122, 

127-8 ; " opening the portals 

of," 56, 63, 83, 86, 248, 251; 

" closing the gortals of," 63, 253. 
Kdlpavrksa (Pdrijdta) tree, 123, 

146, 243, 251. 

Kaniska, King, mission of, 13. 

Kathina, 200-12 ; significance and 
function of, 200 ; description of 
modern, 201-4 ; ceremony in the 
temple at, 204 ; in the seven- 
teenth century, 205-8 ; early 
history of, 208-10 ; followed by 
regatta, 211. 

Kautiliya-ariha-sastra, cited, 44. 

Khau Barsa, 200. 

Khvdn (see Spirit, khvdn). 

King, daily life of, 42-6 ; dress of, 
77, 139, 203 ; exercise of divine 
and priestly functions by, 79, 91, 
118, 130-2, 174, 229, 266; 
exercise of magical functions by, 
226, 266 ; ceremony before death 
of, 138 ; dead, worship of, 

King, Second (see Ugatuja, Malm}. 

King, Temporary, 132, 228-30, 239, 
256, 265-9 ; pays homage to 
king, 243 ; rewards of, 242, 258. 

Kings of Siam, list of, 16-17. 

Kingship, Divine, 29-32, 86 (and 
see Deva-raja). 

Kite-flying, 221. 

Kojagara festival (see Dyuta). 

Lamps, feasts of, 288-94 ; hoisted 
on poles, 288-90; floated at 
night, 292-4. 

Language, Court, 39. 

Lao, 13. 

Lava, 12. 

Leaves, in ritual, 72, 74 fn., 130. 

Letter, Royal, reception of, 181, 

Levees, Court, 189, 214. 

Libations, 87, 109, 257. 

Libation Vessel (regalia), 83, 101 . 

Light- waving rite (see Vian diari). 

Limes, containing coins, 146. 

Linga, 29, 110, 169, 296. 

Literature, Siamese, 7-9 ; Euro- 
pean, 9-10. 

Lokapdla, 78, 82. 



Loy Krafyddh, 292-4. . 
Lying-in-State, 141-4. 

Macfha-puja, 200." 

Magic, contagious, 193, 263 ; 

imitative, 223, 226, 244. 
Magical rites, at Assumption of 

Koyal Residence, 119. 
Mahdbhdrata, cited, 44. 
Mahd-navami, feast, 236. 
Mahd-Parinibbdna Sutta, cited, 

107 fn., 154, 156, 157, 171 fn. 
Mahdvagga, cited, 210. 
MaMvamm, cited, 32, 92, 93, 94, 

95, 97, 98, 100, 103, 157, 166, 190, 

212, 301, 302. 

Mahayanism, introduction of, 13. 
Mahhatlek (Lord Chamberlain's 

Department), 22, 177, 203, 258. 
Maitreya Buddha, 32, 204. 
Manasara, cited, 107. 
Mantras, Brahmanic, 55-7, 83, 84, 

249, 251-4 ; Buddhist, 73, 193. 
Manu, cited, 30, 35, 37, 45-6, 58, 

61, 116, 187, 247. 
Marriage, royal, 48, 116. 
Mask, gold, on face of corpse, 139. 
Matriarchy, 68-9. 
Mercury, use of, at cremation, 140, 


Meru, Mount, 31, 71, 122-3, 144-7. 
Ministers of State, 22. 
Miscarriage, expulsion of evil after, 


Monkey, white, 287. 
Mon-Khmers, 12. 
Moon, at Swinging Festival, 250. 
Mortar, stone, in ritual, 252-4. 
Mountains, spirits of (see Spirits). 
Mourning, regulations for, 142, 161. 
Mudrd, 253. 
Murdhdbhiseka, 299 fn. 

Ndga, figure of, at Indrdbhieka, 


Nagara Pathama, 13, 154. 
Nagara Sri Dharmaraja, 14, 57. 

Ndgas, as figure-heads, 114 ; im- 
personated in Swinging Festival, 
241-2, 245. 

Name, personal, of king tabooed, 

Nanchao, 13, 18. 

Nandi, 54,. 295. 

Narada, cited, 30, 58. 

Narayana, King, 16, 225, 239 ; 
daily life of, 43-4 ; audiences of, 
182, 187. 

NareSvara, King, 16, 106. 

Naresvara, procession of, at Swing- 
ing Festival, 251. 

New Year, 298-9. 

Niddna-kathd (in Buddhist Birth 
Stories), cited 81, 93, 119, 260, 

Nirdjand, 297. 

Oath, king's, to Brahmans, 79-80. 
86 ; of allegiance, 193-8. 

Observation, personal, 10. 

Ocean, churning of the, 123. 

Octagonal Throne, ceremony on, 

Officials, ranks of, 22 ; promotion 
of, 214-16. 

Oil, not used for anointment in 
Siam, 76, 79. 

Omens, importance of, in Siam, 62 ; 
drawn from boat-races, 211 ; 
drawn from oxen's choice of food, 
257, 259, 263; drawn from 
length of Baladebas skirt, 257 ; 
drawn from appearance of 
elephants, 273, 284 ; drawn from 
casting of sticks, 291 ; drawn 
from top-spinning, 298. 

Omkdra, 86. 

Ordeal by water, 196. 

Origins, independent, theory off 4. 

Outflow, speeding of the, 225-6.' 

Padi, burning of, 228-31 ; carrying 
home the, 228-30. 



Pai-sri offerings, 73, 131, 295, 310. 

Palace, Grand, 71. 

Palanquin, royal, 110. 

PSli dialogue (at Coronation), 78-9, 

Pancha-gavya, 252 fn. 

Pandits, Court, 44, 77, 78. 

Pansakula verse, 143, 15*8. 

Pantheon, homage to statues in, 
170, 215. 

Parakrama Bahu, King, influence 
of, 14, 97. 

Pdraskara Grihya-sutra, cited, 
229 fn., 295 fn. 

Pdrijata tree (see Kdlpavrksa). 

Paritta suttas, 73, 129, 205, 216. 

Patriarch, Prince, 75, 88, 91, 138, 

People, divisions of the, 22. 

PJta-nun, 54, 77, 117, 122, 240, 

Phaulkon, Constantine, 183, 187. 

Phi, 137, 198, 300-3, 305. 

Phimeanakas, 71, 195. 

Pinfas, 234. 

Piiris, 169, 232, 234, 235. 

Ploughing, First, 256-64. 

Portraits, royal, honoured, 173. 

Pradaksina (see Circumamhulation). 

Prdptdbhiseka, 70. 

Prasada Don, King, 16, 205, 206. 

Prasada spire, 114-15, 145, 252-3. 

Pretas, 234. 

Procession, Coronation, by land, 
108 ; Coronation, by water, 
111-12 ; Tonsure, 129 ; Crema- 
tion, 148-9; Kathina, 202-8; 
at Swinging Festival, 240, 251 ; 
at First Ploughing, 256 ; at 
reception of White Elephant, 275. 

Prognostics (see Omens). 

Progresses, State, 106-15. 

Prpstration, 24, 59, 142, 191-2, 208. 

Purohita, 58, 60, 61, 62, 79, 80, 85, 
87, 103, 254. t 

Pusydbhi$eka, 121. 

Pyre, funeral, 144-7. 

Quarters, guardians of (see Loka- 

Queen, 68, 116-18. * 

Bain, control of, 222-7. 
Rajdbhiseka, 70. 

Rdjafilha, as throne covering, 83. 
Rajasuya, 70, 74, 75, 77, 79, 81, 87, 

93, 99, 103. 
Rdjavdt fence, 122 fn., 145, 172, 232, 

240, 250. 
Rama I-VI, kings of Cakri Dynasty, 

Rama IV, King, daily life of, 42-3 ; 

harem of, 46-7. 
Rama Gamhen, King, 14, 16, 182, 

190, 192, 195 fn., 209, 211, 277, 


Ramadhipatl 1, King, 14, 16. 
Ramadhipatl II, King, 122. 
Ramayana, cited, 87, 96 fn., 99, 

101, 113, 121, 123, 157, 173, 

196 fn., 260, 285, 287. 
Ranks, social, 21-2. 
Ratnas, royal, 88, 93, 116. 
Ravana, 96. 

Receptacle (regalia), 83, 101. 
Reforms, of King Rama V, 23 ; of 

King Rama VI, 23. 
Regalia, list of, 83 ; significance 

of, 86 ; possible derivation from 

magicians' implements, 92, 99 ; 

the five chief, 92. 
Regatta, royal, 211-12. 
Relics, royal, collection of, 154; 

homage to, 171, 215. 
Religion, the popular, 24. 
Residence, Royal, Assumption of, 

Rhinoceros, bearer of the Sacred 

Fire, 150, 168. 
Rhyme-making, 231. 
Rice, mixing the heavenly, 232-5 ; 

consecrated, sown at First 

Ploughing, 257 (and see Padi). 
Rig- Veda, cited, 107 fn., 158, 244. 
Ring, of nine gems, 130 ; placed in 



mouth of royal corpse, 140 ; of 

Head Brahman, 249. 
Kings (regalia), 83, 101 ; use of, at 

king's hair-cutting, 34. 
Kites, magical (see Magical rites) ; 

purificatory, 72, 249. 
Kivers, the five principal, 74 ; 

spirits of (see Spirits). 

Sacrament of First Fruits, 228. 
Sacrifice, of First Fruits, 228; 

human, at foundation of build- 
ings, 304-7. 
Sdkamedha, 236, 237. 
Sdkti, 55, 289, 296. 
Sdkti na, 22, 53. 

Samskdras (initiation rites), 126. 
Sandal-wood, 152, 153. 
Sdnghardja (see Patriarch, Prince). 
Sankrdnti, 299. 
Sanies, burning of, 144. 
Sanskrit texts, 55. 
Sarada Ceremony, 231-7. 
Sastras, references to, in Siamese 

texts, 55. 
Satdpakarana rite, 142, 143, 154, 

158, 169, 171. 
iSatapatha Brdhmana, cited, 30, 36, 

74, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 86, 87, 95, 

99, 102 fn., 103, 106, 107 fn., 229, 

230, 236. 

Scapegoat, public, 309. 
Sceptre (regalia), 83, 100. 
Sebhd, recited at king's hair-cutting, 


Second King (see Upardja, Maha). 
Sesa, 296. 

Seventh day rites, 143. 
Shadow plays, 254. 
Siladitya, King, missions of, 13. 
Sincana (sacred thread), 73, 102, 

110, 131, 193, 232, 233, 308, 310. 
Sirotama (Buddhist glory), 97. 
Sister-marriage, 68, 117. 
Siva, introduction of worship of, 13, 

19 ; temple of, 54 ; images of, 54, 

123, 251 ; High Priest of (see 
6Vu, Brali Mahd Raja) ; im- 
personated at Tonsure, 130-2 ; 
impersonated at Swinging Festi- 
val, 239 ; watches the Swing- 
ing, 241 ; ritual in temple of, 

Siva's Night, 296-7. 

Slippers (regalia), 83, 99. 

Sndna, 297. 

Sokdnta (see Tonsure). 

Soothsaying (see Omens). 

Soul, 173 (and see Spirit, khvdfi). 

Spirit, Tchvdn, 33, 34, 131, 276, 

Spirits, of umbrella, 73, 194, 198, 
213 ; guardian, of cities, 73, 194, 
198, 302-3; of the corn, 233, 
235 ; of rivers, 294 ; propitia- 
tion of, 300-7 ; of mountains, 
301 ; guardian, of great guns, 
304 ; guardian, of foundations, 

Sraddhas, 161, 169, 232, 233, 234. 

Srivijaya, 13, 18. 

Standards, royal, 110. 

Stick (regalia), 83, 100. 

Style and title, handed to the king, 
83 ; inscription of, 102 ; of 
kings of Cakri Dynasty, 104-5. 

Succession, 67. 

Sugrlva, 96, 113, 122. 

Sujata, 233. 

Sukhodaya, independence of, 14. 

Sun, king's equivalence to, 35-6, 
78 ; at Swinging Festival, 250. 

Sunshade, 110. 

Suvarnabhumi, 12. 

Swan (see Hansa). 

Swing, the great, 240 ; the small, 
in Siva temple, 252. 

Swinging Festival, 238-55 ; splar 
origin of, 243-5 ; processions at, 
240-2, 251. 

Sword, of Victory <regalia), 83, 98, 
193, 199 ; Personal (regalia), 83, 



Taboos, 32-42. 

Tak, King, 15, 17, 18, 32, 166. 

Tamil hymn, 55, 56. 

Thai, 13. 

Thread, sacred (see Sincana, and 

Cord, Brahmanic). 
Throne, Octagonal, 78,. 81 ; Bka- 

drapiiKa, 83, 129, 252-4 ; Golden 

Hibiscus, 88, 178, 185 ; Window, 


Title (see Style). 
Tonsurate, reception of, on Mount 

Kailasa, 130. 
Tonsure, 126-36 ; function of, 


Top-spinning, 298. 
Tradition, value of, 5, 6. 
Traibhumi, 127. 
Transliteration, system of, 11. 
Tripitaka, honoured, 172-3. 
Tru$, 299. 

TulabJiara (royal weighing), 199, 
" 216. 

Udumbam (figwood), 78, 81, 102. 

Udumbara, King, 8, 16. 

Urna, images of, 54. 

Umbrella, single-tiered, 110 ; pro- 
cessional, 110 ; straw, 228-30. 

Umbrella, White, 78, 83, 93-5, 141 ; 
spirit of, 73, 194, 198, 213. 

Unalom scroll, 131, 249. 

U$araja Maha, 22, 52-3, 180, 185, 
289 ; function of, 53. 

Urn, Water (regalia), 83, 101. 

Urns, funeral, 139, 154, 161. 

Vai'sdkka-pvja, 200, 216. 

Vajapeya, 71, 81. 

Vedas, reference to," in Siamese 

texts, 55, 60. " 

Vehicles, traditional, of kings, 109. 
Vian dian rite, 102, 131, 173, 213. 
Victory, king's, at coronation, 78, 

Virgins, in Sdrada Ceremony, 233, 


Vishnu, Institutes of, cited, 50, 58. 
Visnu, temple of, 54 ; images of, 

55, 122, 123; High Priest of, 

72 fn., 77 ; ritual in temple of, 


Visnu's Sleep, 295-6. 
Visnu worship, introduction of, 

is, 19. 

Visvakarma, 123. 

Vow, tying the, 148, 259. 

Vultures, corpses offered to, 159-60. 

Wailing of women at cremation, 

139, 142. 
Water, consecrated, 74, 249, 253, 

254 ; of allegiance, 193. 
Weapons, royal, 106, 193, 198, 213. 
Weighing, royal (see Tulabhara). 
Wind, control of, 221. 
Women, pregnant, sacrifices of, 


Yak's hair tufts, 112, 277. 
Yak's tail whisk (regalia), 83, 100. 
Yantra diagrams, 56, 72, 252, 290. 
Yoni, 296. 

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